Showers may cool Gloucester's heated Irish reception

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Gloucester can expect the hot and cold treatment in Limerick next Saturday when the Heineken Cup Pool Two boils up into what threatens to be a mathematical mess.

Gloucester can expect the hot and cold treatment in Limerick next Saturday when the Heineken Cup Pool Two boils up into what threatens to be a mathematical mess.

Gloucester have known all season that they can expect a heated reaction on the Thomond Park pitch as thousands of Irishman scream themselves hoarse urging on their Munster heroes.

But what they could not anticipate is what lies below the stand before the game gets under way, and according to Jerome Paarwater, the Viadana coach, it is not going to be pleasant.

The visiting changing rooms are anything but palatial. "When we played there before Christmas they put us in changing rooms with holes in the floor," Paarwater claimed. "There were no tiles, no carpets. "The showers were fine until the second guy went in, then they were cold. I don't know how you could put people into something like this."

It is likely, though, that Gloucester will have qualification for the quarter-finals on their mind and little else. A draw would do, although victory would put them in with a chance of a home tie in the knock-out stages.

But a Munster victory would really throw a spanner into the workings-out, because that would leave three sides on eight points, Perpignan having beaten Munster 23-8 on Saturday.

The process of elimination is an involved one with a three-way tie. In the first instance, the organisers will look at matches among these three teams, results against Viadana would not come into the reckoning initially. The three criteria they will use are as follows. First, the side with the greater number of match points (two for a win, one for a draw) from these matches. They would all be level on this calculation having won one and lost one in each leg.

Second, the side which has scored the most tries in these matches. Perpignan's four on Saturday took them to a total of 11, which they cannot add to because their last pool game is against Viadana. That means Gloucester, in defeat, would need three more to add to the nine they have already scored in order to be assured at least of runners-up spot and an almost certain place as one of the best second-placed sides.

Munster, with just five tries to date would have to beat Gloucester by four clear tries in order to pip them to a place in the last eight, or score three more tries and win by a margin of 19 or more points, because the third criterion is the side with the best aggregate points difference in these matches.

After that, it moves to the more general criteria of total number of tries scored in the pool (so Gloucester's 10-try rout of a spirited Viadana in a 64-16 victory at Kingsholm might just be of use), followed by aggregate points difference from the pool stage, and if that doesn't work they will look at the fewest number of players sent off and or suspended in pool games. And finally, if all else fails, it will come down to the toss of a coin.

Ifs and buts, and it is likely that Munster will be reflecting on if onlys after their disappointing display down in Perpignan.

They came out firing in the first half, competing well with Perpignan and the strong wind that blew straight down the pitch at them. After the interval though it was a different story.

"That was the worst 40 minutes we have played all season," their coach Alan Gaffney, said. While their captain and back row man, Jim Williams, stated (and possibly overstated): "Perpignan have the best pack in club rugby in France."

They were outscored by a crucial four tries to one and fly-half Ronan O'Gara even had the ignominy of having his attempted conversion of that solitary try, scored by No 8 Anthony Foley, charged down by Frederic Cermeno.

Perpignan: Tries Cermeno, Giordani, L Corvec, Alvarez-Kairelis. Penalties Edmonds. Munster: Tries Foley. Penalties O'Gara.

Perpignan: J-M Souverbie; P Bomati, P Giordani, C Manas, F Cermeno; M Edmonds, L Loustau; P Meya (S Ce Besombes, 63), M Konieckiewicz (M Dal Maso, 78), N Mas, J Thion, R Alvarez-Kairelis, G Le Corvec (S Deroeux, 78), P Murphy (C Porcu, 63), B Goutta (capt).

Munster: J Staunton; J Kelly, M Mullins, J Holland, M Lawlor; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, F Sheahan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll (M Galwey, 80), J Williams (capt; D Leamy 23-38), A Foley, A Quinlan (D Leamy, 77).

Gloucester: Tries: Garvey, Forrester, Beim, Paramore 2, Azam, Simpson-Daniel, Todd 2, Collins; Conversions: Mercier 7. Viadana: Tries: Steyn. Conversions: Steyn. Penalties: Steyn 3.

Gloucester: T Delport; M Garvey, T Fanolua (R Todd, 55), H Paul, T Beim (J Simpson-Daniel, 55); L Mercier, A Gomarsall (capt; C Stuart-Smith, 67); R Roncero (P Vickery, h-t), O Azam (C Collins, 73), A Deacon, A Eustace, M Cornwell, J Forrester (P Buxton, h-t), J Paramore, A Hazell (E Pearce, 67).

Viadana: C Steyn; A Accorsi (M Dolcetto, 55), G Frasca (S Ceppolino, 71), H Crane (P Bettali, 78), M Rivaro; R Pickering, P Roux (S Aio, 71); M Savi (capt), E De Bellis (V Jimenez, 59), L Lidgard, C Bezzi (A Buhrmann, 52), F Gumiero, M Phillips, G Vigna, A Persico.

Referee: F Maciello (France)

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