Former Heineken Cup winners Brive and Munster clash in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals at Stade Municipal on Saturday.
Former Heineken Cup winners Brive and Munster clash in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals at Stade Municipal on Saturday, looking to join an elite group of teams that have won both tournaments/
Heineken Cup champions in 1998 and runners-up in 1999, Brive's European dominance soon became a distant memory as they faded from the limelight, but now they are back on the big stage with a home clash with one of the teams that followed in their footsteps by turning their chase for the Heineken Cup into an enthralling quest.
Where Brive led so Munster followed in the noughties, suffering heartbreak in 2000 and 2002 before finally winning the title in 2006 and 2008.
The Amlin Challenge Cup may be new ground for Munster, but if there is a piece of silverware up for grabs they have demonstrated over the past decade that they want it. They hold a commanding lead in the Magners League and will go into the game having just beaten arch-rivals Leinster for the first time in six games. Their lofty league position contrasts greatly with Brive's rather more uncomfortable 12th in the Top 14, just above the relegation zone.
Victory in the clash will secure the winner a home semi-final and put them one step closer to joining London Wasps, Bath and Northampton Saints as the only outfits to have wont he Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Munster Director of Rugby Tony McGahan has made three changes for his team's for the game.
As he has done so capably in the past Mick O'Driscoll replaces the injured Paul O'Connell in the second-row while Denis Leamy who replaced Donnacha Ryan in the 54th minute against Leinster last time out retains the number six shirt.
Despite the announcement earlier in the week that he will be off to join an English Premiership side at the end of the season, Sam Tuitupou his cousin Lifeimi Mafi in the centre with Johne Murphy slipping to the bench.
While Munster would rather be doing battle in the Heineken Cup this weekend, Donncha O'Callaghan insists that the Amlin Challenge Cup is still worth fighting for.
“No, it's not where we set out to be, no point in denying that,” said O'Callaghan.
“The Heineken Cup is the most important competition for us. It's every club's goal to play in it, Brive have spoken this week about how they'd love to be in it. So we're no different.”
“We have a great tradition in it that sadly ended this year but that's done with now. The thing is, when people ask are we facing into this weekend thinking of the Heineken Cup, we're not. And is there a hangover, there's not. Yes there was but we're well past that.”
“We're getting on a plane this morning to go play European rugby. We'd be feeling fairly sore if we were all sitting at home this morning with no game this weekend.”
While not the pinnacle of European rugby, the Irish lock is under no illusions regarding the tough task that lies ahead.
“Brive have won the Heineken Cup also and they're going to be as tough as you'll get at this stage. And you only have to look at the sort of teams that are in this Amlin Cup. Clermont, Stade (Francais), Montpelier, Harlequins, Wasps? I mean any of them could win the Heineken. And I think Brive have beaten Clermont and Stade already so we're under no illusions about the task we face,” he added.
Brive: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Mathieu Belie, 9 Augustin Figuerola, 8 Julien Le Devedec, 7 Antoine Claassen, 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Retief Uys, 4 Thibault Dubarry, 3 Pablo Cardinali, 2 Benoit Cabello, 1 Davit Kinchagishvili.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Philippe Bonrepaux, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Pat Barnard, 19 Arnaud Mela, 20 Simon Azoulai, 21 Fabien Domingo, 22 Shaun Perry, 23 RÃ©gis Lespinas.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Lifeimi Mafi, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 David Wallace, 6 Denis Leamy, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Niall Ronan, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Johne Murphy.
Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue:Stadium Municipal AmÃ©dÃ©e Domenech
Kick-off: 14:00 BST (13:00 GMT)
Referee: David Pearson
Assistant referees: JP Doyle, Stuart Terheege