As Munster’s European campaign ends, attention shifts back to the URC as play-offs begin to take shape

Johann van Graan’s side now shift their focus onto the inaugural URC playoffs after their European disappointment on Saturday.

With the end of the Van Graan era at Munster approaching, the South African and his staff pushed for a successful European journey after a number of near misses.

Unfortunately, although they gave everything they could on the day, it wasn’t enough to secure a Champions Cup semi-final with defending champions Toulouse outlasting the Irish side on a shoot out.

It shouldn’t be all doom and gloom for the red men as a particularly successful URC regular season is just coming to its end. With only one more game and the final play-off standings to be decided a trophy is still well within reach.

An all Irish affair is to be Munster’s final game of the regular URC season against current champions Leinster. The game will take place on Saturday the 21st of May at the Aviva Stadium.

2 April 2022; James Lowe of Leinster dives over to score his side’s fourth try despite the tackle of Craig Casey of Munsterduring the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

When the final round of fixtures is completed, the official play-off seedings will be set and each team can prepare for the vital games ahead of them.

Reigning kingpins, Leinster are the clear favourites for the competition, they sit at 62 points which has guaranteed them the first seeded spot.

Between second and sixth is where all the excitement will take place as there is only three points that separate the five spots. Munster sit in second while the Sharks and Stormers come in at third and fourth, all three teams have 56 points going into the final round.

Ulster, the Vodacom Bulls, Glasgow and Edinburgh then file in at fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.

Each of those teams are guaranteed their play-off berth but where they finish, Leinster aside, remains the question that will not be answered until the conclusion of the final round.

The format for the play-offs is as follows, The first seed plays the eighth seed in quarter-final one. The second seed then takes on the seventh seed in the second quarter-final and so on.

With the red province currently sitting in second they are set to play the Glasgow Warriors as things stand. This can still all change though with the Scottish side level on points with 8th placed Edinburgh, but only three behind the Vodacom Bulls, while Ulster are within reach with a bonus point win.

Munster have been up and down throughout the URC competition, but they have proved they are the second best team this season as they seek to avenge the loss in last year’s final as the search for a first piece of silverware since 2011 lingers on.

But, it is extremely important that the men in red beat Leinster in the final round to secure their second place spot, not only to increase their quarter-final chances, but also to earn some momentum against a team that have dominated their recent meetings.

The last time Munster won a league title was in that 2010-2011 season, where they beat Leinster in the Magners League final in Thomond Park.

Since then, there have been a number of near misses in both Europe and at a domestic level.

Munster were beaten in three successive Pro 14 semi-finals by Leinster from 2018-’20 while they were defeated in finals in 2015 (Glasgow Warriors) and 2017 (Scarlets).

But hopefully Johann van Graan can inspire his side to end this drought in his final season as Head Coach, with plenty of positives to take from their Aviva performance against one of Europe’s elite.

There will be time for Munster to take time and reflect on that game with the Leinster clash not until the 21st of this month, with another fortnight before the play-offs begin.

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