Gaffney frustrated by Irish call-up demands

Harlequins 10 - Munster 18
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The Independent Online

It is a given in the European game that Ireland have done most to structure their season sensibly, but there is one glaring exception. Munster, having missed out on a home quarter-final of the Heineken Cup because of an inferior try count, will shortly bid farewell to their best players for the best part of two months.

"We won't see the Ireland regulars at all while the Six Nations Championship is on," Munster's coach, Alan Gaffney, said. "The next time the whole squad will be together will probably be the end of a March, a week before the quarter-finals." A similar interruption was cited as crucial to Munster's downfall against Stade Français in the 2001 semi-final. In France and England the Test players are likely to rejoin their clubs on the Six Nations "gap" weekends.

Not that Munster's problems end there. They are a team in transition, but they could have done more to press home the advantage achieved in the first half through tries by the wing Anthony Horgan and the flanker Denis Leamy.

Asked to sum up the Irish province's chances of winning their first European Cup, now that they are in a seventh straight quarter-final, Quins' coach Mark Evans said: "They do not have enough pace in the back five to win it. They're a very good side with the best line-out in Europe, but they have no pace."

For Quins it was a remarkable afternoon, financially at least. The one-off move to HQ turned a significant six-figure profit. Evans, with his chief executive's hat on, estimated the 33,833 crowd - a barely credible prospect, say, five years ago - paid more than £10 a head. The Rugby Football Union receive an operations fee and a share of the profit. However Evans, presiding over the Premiership's bottom team, continues to insist capital costs have no effect on recruitment. To bring in the 29-year-old Springbok scrum-half Dave von Hoesslin ,Quins have loaned out the flanker Maama Molitika.

Harlequins: Try Monye; Conversion Dunne; Penalty Dunne. Munster: Tries Horgan, Leamy; Conversion Burke; Penalties Burke 2.

Harlequins: G Duffy (T Williams, 59); U Monye, D James, M Deane, S Keogh; A Dunne (J Staunton, 54), S So'oialo; C Jones, A Tiatia, J Dawson, K Rudzki (R Winters, 39), S Miall, N Easter (C Dott, 39-47), T Diprose (capt), L Sherriff.

Munster: C Cullen; S Payne, M Mullins, R Henderson, A Horgan; P Burke, P Stringer; M Horan (G McIlwham, 28-31), F Sheahan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, A Quinlan, A Foley (capt; J Williams, 73), D Leamy.

Referee: J Jutge (France).