Payne insists league title would be a 'massive step' for Reds
Published 11/05/2011 | 05:00
Winning the Magners League would be a "massive step" for Munster, who square off against the Ospreys in the semi-final at Thomond Park this Saturday.
Team manager Shaun Payne knows these opponents well, having faced them many times in his playing days for Munster and also from his time with Swansea between 1999 and 2003 before they amalgamated with Neath to form the Ospreys.
Payne concedes that Munster's European form has been "poor" this season, most recently the flat performance that saw them go out of the Challenge Cup to Harlequins in Thomond Park at the semi-final stage, but the South African sees the Magners League play-offs as the perfect stage to turn the season around with silverware.
"Recent Munster performances have been poor but we have to take the season as a whole. Harlequins is in the past, this is our focus," he said.
"It would be a massive step. Every year this competition is gaining in stature and it is an opportunity to fulfil one of our main goals of the season.We have to put the past behind us."
Munster have played the Ospreys four times already this season, twice in the league and twice in the Heineken Cup, and have won three of those contests.
However, the European defeat at Liberty Stadium last December cost Tony McGahan's men a place in the quarter-finals and, having lost to the Ospreys at Thomond Park last season, Payne is wary of the threat the champions pose.
"The Ospreys are a quality team, never an easy team to play," said Payne. "Against a very good side we have had our ups and downs.
"They beat us last season at Thomond Park, beat us over there and then managed to beat Leinster in the final at the RDS, so they shouldn't have any worries about having to travel to Ireland.
"This is a massive opportunity for them, especially when they are getting a bit of criticism in their own press and this will be an opportunity to prove a point."
McGahan does not announce his team until Friday, with options to consider at tight-head, blindside flanker, scrum-half and centre.
Welshman Nigel Owens has been confirmed as the referee. Ireland's George Clancy will take charge of Leinster's showdown with Ulster at the RDS on Friday.
Munster v Ospreys 2010/11
Magners League -- September 18, Thomond Park: Munster 22, Ospreys 10
Heineken Cup -- December 12, Thomond Park: Munster 22, Ospreys 16
Heineken Cup -- December 18, Liberty Stadium: Ospreys 19, Munster 15
Magners League -- April 23, Liberty Stadium -- Ospreys 20, Munster 22