Munster scrum-half Craig Casey admits the club is desperate to add to their recent success by winning the Champions Cup this season.
The province come off a spectacular campaign where they put together an impressive run late on to snatch the United Rugby Championship title in Cape Town.
It was a remarkable feat in Graham Rowntree’s first season as head coach of the Irish side and the team is eager to return the club to European glory ahead of the start of the Champions Cup this weekend.
The competition everyone wants to win
Casey believes the Champions Cup is the highest accolade in club rugby but knows they need to make it through the pool stage before they can think of winning.
“Something you want to do as a young fella is winning a Champions Cup,” he said. “To win a URC last season is huge for us as a club, and something I think a lot of us will take confidence from to win further trophies down the line.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win the Champions Cup, it’s the holy grail of club rugby but it all starts with the four group games and getting through those first before we can talk about winning a Champions Cup.
“Last season we got knocked out against the Sharks in Durban in the last 16, so then you have to get through that step before you start talking about next steps but I think as a goal the Champions Cup is obviously a huge one.”
The Munsterman believes there is more familiarity with the game model this season and feels the team is much better for it.
“It is different, not because we’re the URC champions,” added Casey. “I think it feels different because we’re more familiar with what we’re trying to do as a playing group with the coaching staff. There were a lot of teething problems at the start of last season, obviously, with trying to get to grips with how we were training, how we were playing.
“Training was getting so much harder for us so you probably saw that in our first few performances. We were very leggy going into the weekends because we weren’t used to the loads we were putting down.
“So it definitely feels different in the sense everyone feels comfortable in what we’re doing now and we’ve got real confidence in what we’re doing. But we’re not comfortable in training with the competition that’s there. The young fellas coming through are absolutely outstanding and they’re driving that confidence within the whole playing group.
“Our group as a whole, it’s brilliant coming back as URC champions but we’ve mentioned there’s a target on our backs now. That’s where you want to be, that’s exactly where you set out to be at the start of the season. We’re here now, we’ve got to relish it and enjoy it.”
Munster begin their European journey against Bayonne at home on Saturday in the Champions Cup.