|The Red Army|
|Location||Limerick and Cork, Ireland|
|Johann van Graan|
|Ronan O'Gara (2,625)|
|Simon Zebo (60)|
|2019-20||2nd (Conf. B), Semi-finals|
Munster Rugby (Irish: Rugbaí Mumhan) is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. They compete in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions Cup. The team represents the IRFU Munster Branch, which is one of four primary branches of the IRFU, and is responsible for rugby union throughout the geographical Irish province of Munster. The team motto is "To the brave and faithful, nothing is impossible." This is derived from the motto of the MacCarthy clan - "Forti et Fideli nihil difficile". Their main home ground is Thomond Park, Limerick, though some games are played at Musgrave Park, Cork.
Munster was officially founded in 1879, at the same time as Leinster and Ulster, with Connacht being founded ten years later in 1889. The first Interprovincial matches between Leinster, Ulster and Munster, however, were held in 1875. The founding of the Munster branch of the IRFU was intended to organise and oversee the game within the province and prevent any club bias by providing neutral selectors for the representative side. In amateur days, the four Irish provinces played against each other in the IRFU Interprovincial Championship and also played touring international sides.
Munster traditionally drew its strength from the clubs of Limerick, with the game popular in the city and widely played at all levels. Teams such as Shannon, Garryowen and Young Munster built up fierce rivalries with one another, helping push standards in the province higher as a result.
Munster has a great tradition of competitiveness and impassioned displays against touring sides. The first touring side to play Munster were the famous Original All Blacks led by Dave Gallaher, who lined out against Munster in the Markets Field, Limerick in November 1905. Munster were defeated that day 33-0. Throughout the years, Munster were to record a number of near-misses and last minute defeats against South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The first tangible result against a touring side was to come in 1958, when the Wallabies were held to a 3-3 draw in Thomond Park. Munster became the first Irish provincial side to defeat a major touring team when they defeated Australia 11-8 in Musgrave Park, Cork on 25 January 1967. Munster were captained that day by Tom Kiernan.
Munster first played the All Blacks in 1905, losing 33-0 on the occasion. They have played each other many times since then. Munster drew with New Zealand 3-3 in 1973 and, in 1978, became, at the time, the only Irish side to have beaten the All Blacks. The 12-0 victory occurred on Tuesday 31 October 1978 at Thomond Park, in front of a crowd of 12,000, though many times that number still claim to have been present, such was the occasion. Christy Cantillon scored a try with Tony Ward converting. Ward also added a drop-goal in each half. Until the national team's victory on 5 November 2016, it was the only time an All Blacks team lost to any Irish side and forms part of Munster Rugby mythology. A stage play named Alone it Stands (by John Breen) and a book entitled Stand Up and Fight: When Munster Beat the All Blacks by Alan English were both based on the event. Both have been commercially successful. Alone it Stands has had several sell-out runs in Ireland and abroad. Stand Up and Fight was a bestseller in 2005.
The All Blacks returned to Thomond Park in November 2008 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1978 match and to celebrate the opening of the new stadium. After 76 minutes of the match, Munster were winning 16-13, but a late try from Joe Rokocoko meant the All Blacks won 18-16.
On 11 November 2016, Munster welcomed the M?ori All Blacks to Thomond Park. The M?ori players paid tribute to Anthony Foley by placing a jersey with his initials on the halfway line before performing the Haka. M?ori captain Ash Dixon then presented the jersey to Foley's sons. Munster went on to win the historic game 27-14.
Like the All Blacks, Munster have played Australia many times. They first met in 1947, where Australia won 6-5. Munster claimed their first victory over the Wallabies in 1967 when they won 11-8. In 1992, Australia, reigning world champions, having won the 1991 Rugby World Cup, visited Munster as part of a European Tour. Munster won 22-19 in a rough encounter in Cork. Ten years later, London newspaper The Daily Telegraph recounted part of the legend in a feature on Munster prop Peter Clohessy: "The then Wallabies coach, Bob Dwyer, who was not a man who readily accepted that opposition sides could legitimately score more points than his team, immediately branded the Munster Number 3 a 'disgrace'. It had been a typically rugged, robust and memorable Munster triumph, with leather and fists flying on both sides. Clohessy, who wouldn't generally be known for misconduct, was no more guilty than the next man but world champions are not supposed to lose against a hastily assembled Irish provincial XV. There had to be a reason, an excuse, and Dwyer rounded on Clohessy".
History repeated itself in 2010 when Munster defeated the Wallabies 15-6, with their Australian fly-half, Paul Warwick, kicking all fifteen points (three penalties and 2 drop goals). The match was played in ferocious weather, with Munster playing into a gale-force wind and driving rain in the first half. Indeed, the conditions made the half time score of 6-6 all the more significant, as Australia could neither cope with the weather nor the Munster pressure in the second half.
On 26 August 1995, the International Rugby Board declared rugby union an "open" game, removing all restrictions on payments or benefits to those connected with the game. This was done due to a committee conclusion having an open game was the only way to end the hypocrisy of shamateurism, and keep control of the sport. The threat to amateur rugby union mostly prevalent in the Southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia where Super League was threatening to entice players to rugby league with large salaries. In Ireland, the four provincial teams were the only teams to go professional, while their smaller constituent clubs remained amateur.
The 1995-96 season saw the first ever Heineken Cup, a new tournament set up for European clubs. The Irish were allocated three places in the competition, with these places going to Leinster, Munster and Ulster. The team failed to advance beyond the pool stages, however. Munster finally reached the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in 1998-99 Heineken Cup, after three years of not being able to get out of the group stages.
Munster's first appearance in the Heineken Cup's final was in the 1999-2000 Heineken Cup, where they lost by one point to Northampton at Twickenham. Nevertheless, the season was most memorable with a 25-31 win over Toulouse in Bordeaux.
Their good form and bad luck continued in the following season, 2000-01, with a semi-final defeat to Stade Français, again by one point, where a try from John O'Neill  was disallowed by the referee, as he deemed the ball to be out over the dead-ball line. In the 2001-02 Heineken Cup, Munster lost the last match of their pool at Castres, but qualified as best runners-up. Munster beat Stade Français 16-14 in Paris, the only try of the game coming from Anthony Horgan. It was then on to Béziers to meet Castres again for the semi-final. Munster were triumphant and went to the final at Millennium Stadium to meet the reigning champions, Leicester. Munster lost a tight game remembered as 'the hand of Back' final, as the Leicester flanker used his hand illegally in a scrum when Munster had a last-chance attack. Munster also reached the final of the Celtic League in this season, but lost 24-20 to Leinster at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.
In 2002-03, Munster reached the quarter-finals after a win against Gloucester, later issued on VHS under the title "The Miracle Match". In this game, Munster needed to win by a margin of at least 27 points and score a minimum of four tries to earn a quarter-final berth. They won 33-6 with four tries in a game that has become part of Munster Rugby folklore. They again faced Leicester, this time at the Tigers' home of Welford Road, and defeated the reigning champions to progress to the semi-finals. They faced Toulouse in the semi-finals and lost out on a place in the final, after losing by a single point in France. In this season, Munster won the Celtic League for the first time, by beating Neath-Swansea Ospreys 37-17 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
In 2003-04 it was more of the same. After an assured performance in the Pool stage, Munster defeated Stade Français at Thomond Park to set up a semi-final date with English champions, London Wasps. This match has gone down as one of the best Heineken Cup matches of all time. Although leading by 10 points in the second half, and having lost Ronan O'Gara to injury early on, they succumbed to 2 Wasps tries in injury time, resulting in a Wasps v Toulouse final. Munster finished in a disappointing seventh position in the 2003-04 season of the Celtic League.
In 2004-05, after a shaky performance in the Pool stage, Munster qualified as 5th seeds and played Biarritz away. The match was played at Real Sociedad's ground, the Anoeta Stadium, in San Sebastián, Spain - the first Heineken Cup game ever played in Spain. Biarritz won 19-10 to avenge a 38-29 defeat at the same stage in 2001. Munster finished second in the 2004-05 Celtic League season.
In 2005-06, Munster qualified to the final of the Heineken Cup, having overcome rivals Leinster 30-6 in the semi-final at Lansdowne Road. The final was held at the Millennium Stadium against Biarritz. Munster won 23-19 to become European Champions for the first time. Munster finished one place lower than the previous season in the Celtic League, finishing third overall.
The 2006-07 Heineken Cup was a disappointing tournament for Munster, as they lost their previously unbeaten European record at Thomond Park, losing to Leicester Tigers in the group stages in January 2007. They later lost their quarter-final to Llanelli Scarlets. Munster's performance in the Celtic League was equally disappointing, finishing sixth overall.
In 2008, Munster signed Doug Howlett, the all-time leading try scorer for New Zealand. That season's Heineken Cup saw Munster finish top in their group, and they went on to reach the final for the second time in three years beating Saracens in the semi-final. The final, again held at the Millennium Stadium, saw Munster defeat Toulouse 16-13 to claim their second Heineken Cup title in 3 years. Munster finished third in the Celtic League in the 2007-08 season. In May 2008, Director of Coaching Declan Kidney left to take up the head coach job with Ireland. Munster ensured continuity by promoting Australian Tony McGahan to the position from within the coaching setup.
In the 2008-09 Heineken Cup, Munster once again topped their group and reached the semi-final, but lost to arch-rivals Leinster 25-6, a match attended by a then world record crowd of over 82,208. On 30 April 2009, Munster clinched the Celtic League for the second time in their history, after their closest challengers Ospreys beat Dragons but failed to claim a bonus point. This handed the title to Munster who could not be overtaken at the top of the table.
The 2009-10 season saw Munster finish top of their Heineken Cup pool once again. Victories over Northampton Saints, French Top 14 champions USA Perpignan and Italian side Benetton saw Munster qualify for the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals for a record 12th consecutive year. The match took place at Thomond Park, where Munster played Northampton Saints for the third time that season and won 33-19. They lost 18-7 in the semi-finals against Biarritz at the Anoeta. Munster came 4th in the Celtic League, but because this season saw the introduction of a playoff system for the top four teams, Munster met and lost 16-6 to Leinster in the play-off semi-final.
The 2010-11 season saw Munster drawn in Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup alongside Ospreys, London Irish and Toulon. Munster lost 23-17 away to London Irish, before defeating RC Toulon 45-18 at Thomond Park. Munster defeated Ospreys 22-16, but lost the reverse fixture at Liberty Stadium 19-15. In Round 5 Munster went to Toulon, losing 32-16. As a result, Munster failed to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Heineken Cup for the first time in 13 years. Munster won their final pool game, at home to London Irish, 28-14, and qualified for the 2010-11 European Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Munster defeated Leinster 24-23 on 2 April 2011 in the Celtic League, ending a run of 5 straight defeats. Munster beat Brive 37-42 in their Challenge Cup quarter-final to qualify for the semi-final against Harlequins on 30 April. Munster lost the semi-final in Thomond Park 20-12. Munster finished first in the 2010-11 Celtic League. They beat Ospreys 18-11 in their semi-final to set up a Grand Final with Leinster, which Munster won 19-9, securing a third Celtic League title.
Munster were drawn in Pool One for the 2011-12 Heineken Cup, alongside Northampton Saints, Scarlets and Castres Olympique. They beat Northampton 23-21 in the first pool game at Thomond Park, after an 83rd minute drop-goal from Ronan O'Gara. In their second pool game, Munster beat Castres 24-27, with O'Gara again scoring an overtime drop-goal to secure victory. Munster won their third pool game, away to Scarlets, 14-17. In the return fixture a week later, Munster won 19-13. A 26-10 win over Castres on 14 January 2012 ensured that Munster qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2011-12 Heineken Cup. Munster ended their 2011-12 Heineken Cup Pool 1 games with a 36-51 victory against Northampton Saints, securing the top seed in the quarter-finals and winning 6 out of 6 pool matches for the first time. Munster lost their quarter-final against Ulster 16-22, losing just their second match at home in the Heineken Cup. Munster finished third in the 2011-12 Pro12, and played Ospreys away in the play-off semi-finals, losing 45-10. It was announced on 22 February 2012 that McGahan would be leaving Munster at the end of the 2011-12 season, to take up a role of coaching co-ordinator on Australia's management team.Rob Penney, coach of Canterbury and New Zealand U20, was chosen to succeed McGahan, being unveiled as the next Munster coach on 2 May 2012.
Munster were again drawn in Pool One for the 2012-13 Heineken Cup, with Saracens, Edinburgh and Racing 92. The campaign opened with a 22-17 away defeat at the hands of Racing 92. Munster won their second game, at home to Edinburgh, 33-0. The December back-to-back games began with a home fixture against Saracens, which Munster won 15-9. In the reverse fixture, Munster lost 19-13. In the fifth round of pool fixtures, Munster beat Edinburgh 17-26. Munster had to win their final pool game, against Racing 92, with a try bonus-point to have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. Munster won the game 29-6, scoring five tries, including a hat-trick from Simon Zebo. Leicester Tigers 9-5 victory over Toulouse ensured that Munster qualified as the second-best runner up, and they played Harlequins in the quarter-finals. Munster won the quarter-final 12-18, advancing to the semi-final, which they lost 16-10 to ASM Clermont Auvergne on 27 April 2013. Munster finished sixth in the 2012-13 Pro12.
Munster were drawn in Pool 6 for the 2013-14 Heineken Cup, alongside Perpignan, Edinburgh and Gloucester. Edinburgh beat Munster 29-23 in the opening pool fixture on 12 October 2013. In their second pool game on 19 October 2013, Munster beat Gloucester 26-10. Munster beat Perpignan 36-8 in Round 3. In the Round 4 reverse fixture on 14 December 2013, Munster won 17-18 at Perpignan. Munster beat Gloucester 7-20 at Kingsholm on 11 January 2014, a win that secured quarter-final qualification. Munster beat Edinburgh 38-6 on 19 January 2014 in Round 6, a bonus-point win that secured a home quarter-final. On 6 February 2014, it was announced that Penney and Backs coach Simon Mannix would be leaving Munster at the end of the 2013-14 season. Former captain and then Forwards coach Anthony Foley was confirmed as the next Munster coach on 19 February 2014. In their quarter-final, Munster beat Toulouse 47-23. Munster lost 24-16 to Toulon in the semi-final on 27 April 2014. Munster finished third in the 2013-14 Pro12, but lost 16-15 to Glasgow Warriors in the semi-final.
Munster were drawn in Pool 1 of the 2014-15 European Rugby Champions Cup, alongside Saracens, Clermont Auvergne and Sale Sharks. A late drop-goal from Ian Keatley gave Munster a 26-27 away win against Sale Sharks in Round 1 on 18 October 2014. Munster beats Saracens 14-3 in Round 2 on 24 October 2014.Clermont Auvergne beat Munster 9-16 at Thomond Park in Round 3 on 6 December 2014, becoming the first French team to beat Munster at their home stadium. In the reverse fixture on 14 December 2014, Clermont beat Munster 26-19. Saracens beat Munster 33-10 on 17 January 2015 in Round 5, a defeat which meant Munster failed to qualify for the knockout stages for only the second time in 17 seasons. In Round 6, Munster beat Sale Sharks 65-10, a win that was their 100th in Europe. Munster finished second on the 2014-15 Pro12. In the play-off semi-final, Munster beat Ospreys 21-18. Munster were beaten 13-31 by Glasgow Warriors in the 2015 Pro12 Grand Final on 30 May 2015.
Munster were drawn in Pool 4 of the 2015-16 European Rugby Champions Cup, alongside Stade Français, Leicester Tigers and Benetton. On 14 November 2015, Munster beat Treviso 32-7 in their opening pool game. Munster's second pool game, against Stade Français, was postponed following the November 2015 Paris attacks. The match was scheduled to be played at the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris. Munster lost 19-31 to Leicester Tigers in Round 3 on 12 December 2015. In the return fixture on 20 December 2015, Leicester beat Munster 17-6. On 9 January 2016, Munster lost 27-7 to Stade Français in the re-arranged second pool game. A week later, Munster beat Stade Français 26-13. In their final pool game on 24 January 2016, Munster beat Treviso 5-28. In April 2016, it was confirmed that former Springbok Rassie Erasmus would be joining Munster as the Director of Rugby on a three-year contract, beginning on 1 July 2016. Munster finished 6th in the 2015-16 Pro12.
Munster were drawn in Pool 1 of the 2016-17 European Rugby Champions Cup, alongside Racing 92, Leicester Tigers and Glasgow Warriors. In October 2016, Munster's head coach and former captain Anthony Foley died while the team were in Paris for the first pool game against Racing 92. Due to the sad and sudden passing of Foley, the fixture was rescheduled. On 22 October 2016, in the first game since Foley's death, Munster beat Glasgow 38-17 at a sold-out Thomond Park. Tributes were paid to Foley before, during and after the game and the number 8 jersey was retired for the game, with CJ Stander wearing the number 24 for the occasion. On 10 December 2016, Munster beat Leicester 38-0 in Round 3 on the Champions Cup. On 17 December 2016, Leicester won the reverse fixture in Welford Road 18-16 after a last-minute penalty from Owen Williams. On 7 January 2017, in the rescheduled Round 1 fixture, Munster beat Racing 92 7-32 away from home. Simon Zebo's opening try was Munster's 400th in European competition. On 14 January 2017, Munster beat Glasgow 12-14 away from home to secure qualification for the quarter-finals. On 21 January 2017, in front of 26,200 spectators in Thomond Park, Munster beat Racing 92 22-10 in Round 6 of the pool stage, securing a home quarter-final On 1 April 2017, in the quarter-final, Munster beat Toulouse 41-16 to progress to the semi-finals. On 22 April 2017, Munster were beaten 26-10 by defending champions Saracens in the Champions Cup semi-final, which was held in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Munster finished 1st after the 22-round regular season of the 2016-17 Pro12, with a record total of 86 points. On 20 May 2017, in their play-off semi-final, Munster beat Ospreys 23-3 in Thomond Park. 7 days later, in the 2017 Pro12 Grand Final, Munster lost 46-22 to Scarlets.
When the draw for the 2017-18 European Rugby Champions Cup was made, Munster were drawn in Pool 4 alongside Leicester Tigers, Racing 92 and Castres Olympique. It marked the third season in a row in which Munster will face Leicester and the second season in a row in which they will play Racing 92. On 30 June 2017, it was confirmed after weeks of speculation that Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Defence Coach Jacques Nienaber would leave the province in December of that year.
In August 2017, Celtic Rugby Limited and the South African Rugby Union confirmed that the two South African teams that had been cut from the southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition, Cheetahs and Southern Kings, would be joining an expanded Pro14 league ahead of the 2017-18 season. Due to the addition of two new teams, the league format was changed to feature two conferences, A and B, with Munster being placed in Conference A alongside Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Glasgow Warriors, Connacht, Cheetahs and Zebre.
In October 2017, Munster confirmed that then-South Africa Forwards Coach Johann van Graan would join the province in November as their new head coach. In the same month, it was announced that Munster's all-time leading try scorer, Simon Zebo, would leave the province at the end of the season. In Rounds 1 & 2 of the 2017-18 European Rugby Champions Cup in October 2017, Munster drew 17-17 away to Castres before earning a 14-7 win at home to Racing 92. Erasmus and Nienaber left Munster in early November 2017, with the province confirming their departure on 13 November 2017. Johann van Graan's first official game as Munster's new head coach was a 36-19 win away against Zebre in the Pro14 on 26 November 2017.Lions Defence Coach JP Ferreira joined Munster in December 2017. In the December Champions Cup double-header against Leicester Tigers, Munster won 33-10 at home before winning 25-16 away, their first win at Welford Road for 11 years. In doing so, Munster became the first team to defeat Leicester in both games of the double-header since they were introduced in 1999, while the home victory also saw Munster surpass 4,000 points in the competition. In Rounds 5 & 6 of the Champions Cup, Munster lost 34-30 away to Racing 92 before beating Castres 48-3 at home, securing a record 17th quarter-final. Munster beat 3-time tournament champions Toulon 20-19 in the quarter-final after a late Andrew Conway try and conversion from Ian Keatley. In the semi-final, Munster were beaten 27-22 by their French pool 4 opponents Racing 92.
Munster finished 2nd in Conference A of the 2017-18 Pro14 season on 69 points. In their semi-final qualifier against Edinburgh on 5 May 2018, Munster won 20-16 to progress to a semi-final away from home. In the semi-final against recently crowned Champions Cup winners and arch-rivals Leinster on 19 May 2018, Munster lost 16-15, bringing to an end their 2017-18 season.
Munster played two pre-season fixtures ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, the first against London Irish, whose directory of rugby is former Munster and Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, and the second against Exeter Chiefs, which was the first meeting between the two clubs. Munster beat London Irish 32-28, but lost 12-0 against Exeter Chiefs.
Drawn alongside French Top 14 champions Castres and English sides Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester, Munster competed in pool 2 of the 2018-19 European Rugby Champions Cup. Munster opened their 2018-19 Pro14 season with a six-try 38-0 victory against South African side Cheetahs in Thomond Park on 1 September 2018. Rory Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O'Donnell, JJ Hanrahan, Dave O'Callaghan and Man-of-the-Match Darren Sweetnam scored the tries, with Hanrahan adding four conversions, in a match that saw Arno Botha, Mike Haley, Joey Carbery and academy players Shane Daly and Gavin Coombes make their competitive debuts for the province, whilst Neil Cronin also made his first appearance for Munster since March 2015.
Tadhg Beirne made his debut for Munster in the provinces 25-10 defeat away to Glasgow Warriors on 7 September 2018. Munster's 64-7 win against Ulster on 29 September 2018 was a record win for the province in the Pro14; Munster's previous record win being 47-0 against Zebre in 2016. In round one of the 2018-19 Champions Cup on 13 October 2018, a try from Stander and five points from the boot of Joey Carbery secured a 10-10 draw in Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs, in a match in which Dan Goggin and Neil Cronin made their competitive European debuts, whilst Tadhg Beirne, who was Man-of-the-Match, Mike Haley and Joey Carbery made their European debuts for Munster. One week later, tries from Mike Haley, Rhys Marshall, Joey Carbery, who also kicked four conversions and one penalty in a Man-of-the-Match performance, Sammy Arnold and Andrew Conway helped Munster to a 36-22 bonus-point victory at home against Gloucester.
In the December 2018 back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures against Castres, Munster won 30-5 in round 3 on 9 December, with tries from Rory Scannell, Stander and JJ Hanrahan, who also scored 15 points off the kicking tee. In the return leg away to Castres on 15 December, the French side won 13-12, with Joey Carbery scoring all of Munster's points from penalties. In round 5 of the Champions Cup, Munster beat Gloucester 41-15 away from home on 11 January 2019, with the tries coming from Joey Carbery (2), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway and 16 points of the kicking tee from Carbery. In round 6, Munster beat Exeter Chiefs 9-7 in Thomond Park on 19 January 2019 to advance to a record 18th Champions Cup quarter-final. Joey Carbery scored all of Munster's points from penalties in a closely fought, physical game. Munster defeated Edinburgh 17-13 in their quarter-final in Murrayfield Stadium on 30 March 2019 to advance to a 14th Champions Cup semi-final, which Munster lost 32-16 to Saracens in the Ricoh Arena on 20 April 2019.
Munster finished second in conference A in the 2018-19 Pro14 season, with 21 wins and 5 defeats, and beat Italian side Benetton 15-13 in their quarter-final on 4 May 2019, to secure a semi-final against provincial rivals Leinster in the RDS on 18 May 2019. which Leinster won 24-9, bringing to an end Munster's 2018-19 season.
Backs coach Felix Jones and forwards coach Jerry Flannery left the province when their contracts expired in June 2019.Graham Rowntree joined the province as their new forwards coach after the completion of his duties with Georgia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.Stephen Larkham, attack coach for the Australian national team, also joined the province as a senior coach ahead of the 2019-20 season.
Club legend and head of commercial and marketing, Doug Howlett, also left the province to return to New Zealand in the summer of 2019, ending his 11-year association with Munster. Munster's CEO Garrett Fitzgerald retired upon reaching retirement age in June 2019. Fitzgerald was Munster's first CEO and had been in the post since 1999, making him the longest serving provincial chief executive in Irish rugby at the time. Ian Flanagan, who was born in Cork and previously worked at Leicester City F.C, was appointed to replace Fitzgerald.
In a change from the previous two seasons, Munster were in conference B for the 2019-20 Pro14 season, alongside Benetton, Cardiff Blues, Connacht, Edinburgh, Scarlets and Southern Kings. This will also be the case for the 2020-21 season, and the change was made based on the points total each club achieved after the completion of the regular 2018-19 season.
Munster were seeded in tier 2 when the draw for the 2019-20 European Rugby Champions Cup was made in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday 19 June 2019, and were drawn in pool 4 alongside defending champions Saracens, Racing 92, who count former Munster players Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo amongst their squad, and fellow Pro14 side Ospreys.
Munster opened their 2019-20 Pro14 season with a 39-9 home victory against Welsh side Dragons on 28 September 2019, with the tries coming from Arno Botha, Jack O'Donoghue, Man-of-the-Match Shane Daly, Tyler Bleyendaal and academy member Diarmuid Barron, and fly-half JJ Hanrahan contributing 14 points off the kicking tee. New signing Nick McCarthy and academy members Keynan Knox and Jack O'Sullivan all made their senior competitive debuts for the province, and hooker Kevin O'Byrne won his 50th cap. Short-term signing Jed Holloway made his debut for the province in their 31-20 away win against South African side Southern Kings on 5 October 2019.
In the opening two rounds of the 2019-20 Champions Cup, Munster beat Welsh Pro14 rivals Ospreys 32-13 away from home on 16 November 2019, with tries from Jeremy Loughman, Keith Earls, Andrew Conway and James Cronin and twelve points off the kicking tee from Tyler Bleyendaal, before drawing 21-21 at home against French side Racing 92 on 23 November 2019; Munster's tries came from Keith Earls and Andrew Conway, and JJ Hanrahan contributed eleven points with the boot. The draw was Munster's first at home in the Champions Cup, against a Racing side that included former Munster players Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo in their starting XV.
Prop Stephen Archer won his 200th cap for Munster in their 2019-20 Pro14 round 7 fixture against Edinburgh on 29 November 2019, becoming the eleventh player to achieve the accolade for the province. Academy fly-half Ben Healy made his debut for Munster during the same game, scoring 11 points in the 18-16 defeat to the Scottish side.
In the Champions Cup back-to-backs against defending champions Saracens, Munster won 10-3 at home on 7 December 2019, with the English side picking up a losing bonus point. In the return fixture one week later, Munster were beaten 15-6, with two tries in the final quarter securing the win for Saracens and denying Munster a losing bonus point.
Following an incident that triggered a large brawl in Munster's second fixture against Saracens in December 2019 and a complaint to the EPCR from Saracens, in which Munster team doctor Jamie Kearns was accused of verbally abusing Saracens hooker Jamie George, an independent panel upheld the complaint and found that Kearns had breached the EPCR's disciplinary rules, handing Kearns a three-week ban, suspended for 12 months, and a fine of EUR2,000 to be paid immediately.
Munster went into their round 5 Champions Cup clash away to Racing 92 on 12 January 2020 knowing that they had to win to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the tournament, but despite leading the French club with ten minutes to go, late tries from Racing secured a 39-22 win for the home side. Munster needed results elsewhere to go their way if they were to stand any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals as the final round of pool matches took place, but Glasgow Warriors 45-7 win against Sale Sharks ended those hopes before Munster's final game against Ospreys had even taken place. In the event, Munster won 33-6 against Ospreys, with Craig Casey, who made his European debut for the province in the defeat to Racing, scoring his first try for Munster, and Calvin Nash, Jack O'Sullivan and Ben Healy making their European debuts for the province.
Munster's 68-3 win against South African side Southern Kings in round 11 of the Pro14 on 14 February 2020 was a record margin of victory for the province in the competition, and the ten tries scored also set a new record for the province. Academy member John Hodnett made his debut for Munster in the fixture, scoring a try and earning the Man-of-the-Match award. The match had an added poignancy for Munster, as their long-serving former CEO, Garrett Fitzgerald, who had only retired in June 2019, passed away following a battle with illness earlier that day.
The 2019-20 Pro14 was suspended indefinitely by tournament organisers on 12 March 2020 in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Munster's round 14 and 15 fixtures against Italian side Benetton had already been postponed.Tyler Bleyendaal was forced to retire from playing rugby with immediate effect in May 2020 due to a persistent neck injury. In the same month, prop Brian Scott was also forced to retire with immediate effect due to injury. The regular season resumed on 22 August 2020, with the number of rounds reduced from 21 to 15 and any games postponed prior to the indefinite suspension of the season being deemed as 0-0 draws and both teams awarded two points. Rounds 14 and 15 took place as derbies in each territory, with the top two teams in each conference progressing to a semi-final stage.
Munster resumed their season on 22 August 2020 with a fixture against Leinster in the Aviva Stadium, which Leinster won 27-25. Munster handed debuts to new signings Damian de Allende and RG Snyman, though Snyman's first appearance for the province lasted only 7 minutes after he was injured during a lineout. Andrew Conway scored tries either side of Keith Earls' try, with JJ Hanrahan kicking 10 points off the tee, and Chris Farrell won the Man-of-the-Match award.
Munster completed their reduced 15 round Pro14 regular season with a seven try 49-12 win against Connacht, a victory that secured a semi-final against defending champions and provincial rivals Leinster on 4 September 2020. The tries came from Chris Cloete, Jeremy Loughman, Tadhg Beirne, James Cronin, two from Andrew Conway and a penalty try, with JJ Hanrahan kicking all five of his conversions and Rory Scannell converting the final try. As well as getting on the scoresheet, Tadhg Beirne also won the Man-of-the-Match award on his first game back after fracturing an ankle against Saracens in December 2019. Leinster won the semi-final 13-3, knocking Munster out at the semi-final stage of the Pro14 for the third season in a row.
|If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order -
|Green background indicates teams that will compete in the Pro14 Final, and also earn a place in the 2021-22 European Champions Cup|
Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places that earn a place in the 2021-22 European Champions Cup
|Top 4 of each pool, advance to quarter-finals.|
|Teams 5-8 in pool advance to 2020-21 European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals.|
The 'three crowns' flag of Munster alludes to the three constituent historic kingdoms of Munster; Thomond in the north, Desmond in the south, and Ormond in the east. A revamped logo was introduced for the 2003-04 season which included the addition of a stag with the three crowns. The new crest was designed by the Limerick graphic design and branding agency Designer's Ink, who received a Gold Award in the Irish Design Effectiveness Awards for the branding and implementation of Munster Rugby. The crest was designed to maintain the three crowns and the new red stag symbolises strength and competitiveness. The decision for change was a product of two years of planning of research and design.
The current kit is made by Adidas, who replaced Canterbury of New Zealand in 2007 in a deal covering kit supply for three seasons. Between 2004 and 2013, Toyota was Munster's primary sponsor, appearing on the front of their jersey. On 21 May 2013, it was announced on that Bank of Ireland would be replacing Toyota as Munster's sponsor. In April 2017, the deal with Bank of Ireland was extended until the end of the 2022-23 season. In August 2017, Munster announced that Shannon Airport had become its 'Official Airport Partner' in a three-year deal, which will see the Shannon Airport logo appear on the players' shorts from the 2017-18 season onwards. The deals with kit manufacturer Adidas and retail partner LifeStyle Sports were extended in July 2019 until the end of the 2025-26 season.
Munster have two main stadia where they play their home matches - Thomond Park in Limerick and Musgrave Park in Cork. Thomond Park is the bigger of the two, with a capacity of 25,600, which can be expanded up to 26,267 with temporary seating, while Irish Independent Park holds 8,008. As well as Munster, Shannon and UL Bohemians play at the grounds of Thomond Park. Thomond Park is famous for its atmosphere and unique history - its noise during play and complete silence when a player (home or away) is kicking at goal. It was also famous for Munster's intimidating record that it held for over a decade - having never been beaten at home during the Heineken Cup. However, the record was broken during the 2006-07 season when they were defeated by Leicester Tigers. Munster train in the University of Limerick.
Thomond Park went through a major renovation in 1999 and in 2006, Munster announced plans to upgrade it. In autumn 2008, the new 25,600 capacity stadium was opened. Two sweeping arches are one of the defining features of the stadium, as well as the concourse outside of the new East Stand. The new stadium design was well received and won the Public Choice Award for 2009 from the Irish Architecture Foundation. A long discussion and consultation on the new name concluded with the decision that the name would remain Thomond Park.
The strength of Munster's support was demonstrated during Munster's 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup final wins. News reports detailed the lengths that fans were willing to go to secure tickets to the game, with some Munster fans travelling to Biarritz to buy up the French allocation of tickets. On the day of the game the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was filled with a capacity crowd of 74,500. Of those numbers it is estimated that somewhere between 55,000 and 65,000 were Munster fans with the remainder being neutrals and Biarritz supporters. The Millennium Stadium was intended to be a neutral venue but commentators on the day remarked that it could hardly be counted as such. In North America there is an official supporters club called Munster Rugby USA.
Munster played in the most attended semi-final match of the Heineken Cup. 82,208 spectators attended their 2008-09 Heineken Cup semi-final against Irish rivals Leinster, which was played in Croke Park, Dublin. This was also, at the time, the largest crowd ever at a club rugby union match. The record was broken in a league game between English sides Saracens and Harlequins in 2012.
Munster's appearance in the 2002 final of the Heineken Cup against Leicester Tigers at the Millennium Stadium, which drew 74,600, was the record attendance for a final in the competition until the 2007 Heineken Cup final between Leicester and London Wasps at the newly expanded Twickenham. Munster's 2005 quarter-final against Biarritz Olympique in Estadio Anoeta, played across the border in Spain in San Sebastián set the record for the biggest rugby match ever played in Spain with an attendance of 32,000. Their October 2006 Celtic League game against Leinster at Lansdowne Road beat the record for that competition with an attendance of 27,252. This record lasted just two months however with the Leinster and Ulster match on 31 December 2006 filling Lansdowne Road (over 48,000 in attendance) for the last match at the stadium before redevelopment.
On 2 October 2010, Munster played Leinster in the Round 5 of the Celtic League at the Aviva Stadium, this set a new crowd attendance record for a Celtic League game at 50,645. On 26 December 2017, a new attendance record for Thomond Park in the Pro14 was set when 26,267 were at the Munster v Leinster fixture.
Munster fans are known for their silence when a kick is being taken, but also for their noise. Fans repeatedly chant "MUNSTER" or sing "The Fields of Athenry" (an Irish famine song from Galway, Connacht) and "Stand Up and Fight" (from the Broadway musical Carmen Jones). They sang The Black Velvet Band to the Ospreys' Irish winger Tommy Bowe during their 2009 Heineken Cup quarter-final encounter. Tommy Bowe sang this song at the official reception for the 2009 Grand Slam winning Ireland rugby team.
Munster Rugby has given the word "Garryowen" to the rugby lexicon. Famously, the Limerick club of Garryowen introduced the "Garryowen kick", a high up and under which puts defending players under pressure.
Munster A is the team that represents Munster in the Celtic Cup and in the All-Ireland Inter-Provincial Championship. Pre-professionalism and a formal Celtic league structure, the main Munster team competed in the AIPC. Since the advent of professionalism the provinces have fielded lesser teams in order to concentrate on the Celtic League. The team is composed of Senior Munster squad players requiring gametime, Academy players and All-Ireland League players called up from their club.
Having been beaten finalists in the 2009-10 British and Irish Cup, losing 23-14 to Cornish Pirates, Munster A secured success in the British and Irish Cup on 27 April 2012, beating Cross Keys 31-12 in the final of the 2011-12 tournament at Irish Independent Park. On 21 April 2017, Munster A won their second British and Irish Cup, beating English RFU Championship side Jersey Reds 29-28 in the 2016-17 final, which was held in Irish Independent Park. At one point during the first half, Munster A had been losing 18-0, but fought back to secure victory.
With 2017-18 being the last season in which the British and Irish Cup was held, the Welsh Rugby Union and Irish Rugby Football Union formed a new tournament, the Celtic Cup, which features development squads from the four Irish provinces and four Welsh regions, split into two pools of four. The first tournament ran over seven consecutive weeks between 7 September 2018 and 21 October 2018.
|2001-02||1st (Pool B)||6||5||0||1||0||15|
|Quarter-final||Munster 13 - 6 Llanelli|
|Semi-final||Munster 15 - 9 Ulster|
|Final||Leinster 24 - 20 Munster|
|2002-03||1st (Pool A)||7||6||0||1||4||28|
|Quarter-final||Munster 33 - 3 Connacht|
|Semi-final||Munster 42 - 10 Ulster|
|Final||Neath 17 - 37 Munster|
|Semi-final||Leinster 16 - 6 Munster|
|Semi-final||Munster 18 - 11 Ospreys|
|Final||Munster 19 - 9 Leinster|
|Semi-final||Ospreys 45 - 10 Munster|
|Semi-final||Glasgow 16 - 15 Munster|
|Semi-final||Munster 21 - 18 Ospreys|
|Final||Munster 13 - 31 Glasgow|
|Semi-final||Munster 23 - 3 Ospreys|
|Final||Munster 22 - 46 Scarlets|
|2017-18||2nd (Conf. A)||21||13||1||7||15||69|
|Quarter-final||Munster 20 - 16 Edinburgh|
|Semi-final||Leinster 16 - 15 Munster|
|2018-19||2nd (Conf. A)||21||16||0||5||13||77|
|Quarter-final||Munster 15 - 13 Benetton|
|Semi-final||Leinster 24 - 9 Munster|
|2019-20||2nd (Conf. B)||15||10||0||5||11||51[n 2]|
|Semi-final||Leinster 13 - 3 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Colomiers 23 - 9 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 27 - 10 Stade Français|
|Semi-final||Toulouse 25 - 31 Munster|
|Final||Northampton 9 - 8 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 38 - 29 Biarritz|
|Semi-final||Stade Français 16 - 15 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Stade Français 14 - 16 Munster|
|Semi-final||Castres 17 - 25 Munster|
|Final||Leicester 15 - 9 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Leicester 7 - 20 Munster|
|Semi-final||Toulouse 13 - 12 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 37 - 32 Stade Français|
|Semi-final||Munster 32 - 37 Wasps|
|Quarter-final||Biarritz 19 - 10 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 19 - 10 Perpignan|
|Semi-final||Leinster 6 - 30 Munster|
|Final||Biarritz 19 - 23 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Scarlets 24 - 15 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Gloucester 3 - 16 Munster|
|Semi-final||Saracens 16 - 18 Munster|
|Final||Toulouse 13 - 16 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 43 - 9 Ospreys|
|Semi-final||Munster 6 - 25 Leinster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 33 - 19 Northampton|
|Semi-final||Biarritz 18 - 7 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 16 - 22 Ulster|
|Quarter-final||Harlequins 12 - 18 Munster|
|Semi-final||Clermont 16 - 10 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 47 - 23 Toulouse|
|Semi-final||Toulon 24 - 16 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Munster 41 - 16 Toulouse|
|Semi-final||Munster 10 - 26 Saracens|
|Quarter-final||Munster 20 - 19 Toulon|
|Semi-final||Racing 92 27 - 22 Munster|
|Quarter-final||Edinburgh 13 - 17 Munster|
|Semi-final||Saracens 32 - 16 Munster|
|2010-11||Quarter-final||Brive 37 - 42 Munster|
|Semi-final||Munster 12 - 20 Harlequins|
|Head coach||Johann van Graan||South Africa|
|Senior coach||Stephen Larkham||Australia|
|Defence coach||JP Ferreira||South Africa|
|Forwards coach||Graham Rowntree||England|
|Team manager||Niall O'Donovan||Ireland|
|Head of athletic performance||Ged McNamara||Ireland|
|Strength and conditioning coach||Damien O'Donoghue||Ireland|
|Strength and conditioning coach||Adam Sheehan||Ireland|
|Performance analyst||George Murray||Ireland|
|Munster Rugby senior squad[a]|
|(c) denotes the team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped players. |
* denotes players qualified to play for Ireland on residency or dual nationality.
ST denotes a short-term signing.
L denotes a player on loan at the club.
Players and their allocated positions from the Munster Rugby website.
|Elite player development manager||Peter Malone||Ireland|
|Elite player development officer||Greig Oliver||Scotland|
|National talent coach||Mark Butler||Ireland|
|Strength and conditioning coach||Owen Tarrant||Ireland|
|Video analyst||Brian Fitzgerald||Ireland|
|Munster Rugby academy squad|
|(c) denotes the team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped players, number in brackets indicates players stage in the three-year academy cycle. |
* denotes players qualified to play for Ireland on residency or dual nationality.
Players and their allocated positions from the Munster Rugby website.
|1951||South Africa||Thomond Park||6-11||Lost|
|1954||New Zealand||The Mardyke||3-6||Lost|
|1960||South Africa||Musgrave Park||3-9||Lost|
|1963||New Zealand||Thomond Park||3-6||Lost|
|1970||South Africa||Thomond Park||9-25||Lost|
|1973||New Zealand||Musgrave Park||3-3||Drew|
|1974||New Zealand||Thomond Park||4-14||Lost|
|1978||New Zealand||Thomond Park||12-0||Won|
|1989||New Zealand||Musgrave Park||9-31||Lost|
|2008||New Zealand||Thomond Park||16-18||Lost|
|2016||M?ori All Blacks||Thomond Park||27-14||Won|
Correct as of 9 January 2021
|Coach||Season(s)||Games||Won||Drew||Lost||Win %||Loss %||Honours|
|Jerry Holland||1994/95 - 1996/97||19||12||0||7||63%||37%||IRFU Interprovincial Championship: 1994-95, 1996-97|
|Declan Kidney||1998/99 - 2002/03||80||60||3||17||75%||21%||IRFU Interprovincial Championship: 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01|
2002-03 Celtic League
|Alan Gaffney||2003/04 - 2004/05||61||40||0||21||66%||34%||Celtic Cup (2005)|
|Declan Kidney||2005/06 - 2007/08||84||54||1||29||64%||35%||European Cup (2006), (2008)|
|Tony McGahan||2008/09 - 2011/12||115||79||1||35||69%||30%||Pro14 (2009), (2011)|
|Rob Penney||2012/13 - 2013/14||61||38||1||22||62%||36%||2013-14 Pro12 Coach of the Season|
|Anthony Foley||2014/15 - 2016/17[n 1]||64||39||2||23||61%||36%|
|Rassie Erasmus||2016/17 - 2017/18||43||33||1||9||77%||21%||2016-17 Pro12 Coach of the Season|
|Johann van Graan||2017/18 -||85||58||3||24||68%||28%|
The following table shows the players who won at least 200 caps for Munster. All players are Irish, unless otherwise noted.
|Mick O'Driscoll||207||1998-2003, 2005-2012|
|Season||Player of the Year||Young Player of the Year||Academy Player of the Year||Hall of Fame|
|2006-07||John Hayes||Darragh Hurley||Keith Earls||Tom Kiernan|
|2007-08||Ronan O'Gara||Denis Hurley||Billy Holland||Paddy Reid|
|2008-09||David Wallace||Keith Earls||Tommy O'Donnell||Mick English|
|2009-10||Mick O'Driscoll||Billy Holland||Scott Deasy||Jim McCarthy|
|2010-11||James Coughlan||Ian Nagle||Conor Murray||Tom Nesdale|
|2011-12||Donnacha Ryan||Peter O'Mahony||Dave O'Callaghan||Ray Hennessy|
|2012-13||Tommy O'Donnell||Simon Zebo||James Cronin||Liam Coughlan|
|2013-14||Conor Murray||JJ Hanrahan||Shane Buckley||Brian O'Brien|
|2014-15||CJ Stander||Duncan Casey||Jack O'Donoghue||Noel Murphy|
|2015-16||CJ Stander||Rory Scannell||Rory Scannell||Phil O'Callaghan|
|2016-17||Tyler Bleyendaal||Darren Sweetnam||Conor Oliver||Barry McGann|
|2017-18||Keith Earls||Sammy Arnold||Fineen Wycherley||Anthony Foley|
|2018-19||Peter O'Mahony||Dan Goggin||Craig Casey||Donal Lenihan|
|2019-20||CJ Stander||Shane Daly||Jack O'Sullivan||Garrett Fitzgerald|
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
(Correct as of 9 January 2021) Bold indicates highest overall record. All players are Irish unless otherwise indicated.
The ERC issued awards to teams that had played at least 50 matches in European competitions.
Correct as of 19 December 2020
All players are Irish unless otherwise noted.
This award recognises the best European player in the Heineken Cup from 1995 to 2010.
|Anthony Foley||Number 8||1995-2008|
The ERC issued awards to players who had scored at least 500 and 1,000 points in European competitions.
|Competition||Irish players||Overseas players|
|Lifeimi Mafi (2)|
|2010-11||Ronan O'Gara (2)||----|
|2013-14||Dave Kilcoyne||Casey Laulala|
|2014-15||Tommy O'Donnell||CJ Stander|
|2015-16||CJ Stander (2)[n 1]||----|
Dave Kilcoyne (2),
| Jaco Taute, |
|2018-19||Tadhg Beirne (2),[n 2]
The Pro14 Golden Boot is awarded to the kicker who has successfully converted the highest percentage of place kicks during the 21-week regular Pro14 season. The prize has been awarded annually since 2012.