Brian O'Driscoll explains why Munster and Leinster have gone from pool stage flops to European contenders
Ireland and Leinster legend Brian O'Driscoll believes a number of factors have contributed to Munster and Leinster's dramatic upturn in fortunes this season.
Failure to make the knockout stages last season, eclipsed by Pat Lam's Connacht and empty seats in stands last season have been replaced by huge displays and results this term.
Both sides now have three weeks to prepare for Champions Cup semi-finals with Munster facing reigning champs Saracens at the Aviva and Leinster travelling to Lyon to play Clermont.
Ireland's record tryscorer has identified three reasons why this rise in the fortunes of the top two Irish provinces has occurred. The 2015 Rugby World Cup, the sudden and heartbreaking loss of Anthony Foley last October and the arrival of Stuart Lancaster.
Speaking on Yates on Sunday on Newstalk, BOD said: "It's down to not being a world cup year. People probably didn't pay full respect to the fact that Europe started a couple of weeks after the boys came back from a world cup having been with the national team for the whole summer.
"It's very difficult to integrate and hit the ground running when you haven't had any opportunity to have cohesion.
"I think that had a negative impact on the provinces.
"On top of that, I think Munster have been galvanised by tragic loss of Axel earlier on in the year.
"I think they are a team with massive momentum at the moment and momentum can be a really dangerous weapon, if you marry it with a good gameplan, good coaching and some pretty handy players.
"I think they are a team that is hitting its best form.
"I think with Leinster, Stuart Lancaster has had a big effect but again, it's a confidence thing... enjoying training. I know he brings a huge variety to what they are doing week in, week out.
"When you're having fun, you are able to express yourself at the weekends and I think you are seeing that with Leinster."