Munster and Ireland star Tadhg Beirne has explained that Munster's statement win over the DHL Stormers in the United Rugby Championship last year has lifted spirits in the Ireland camp.
The Irish province ended their 12-year wait for silverware by beating the South African side by five points. This was also after they beat Leinster in the semi-finals of the competition.
Beirne has explained how the huge win boosted their spirits and lifted their confidence, especially after their past experiences of reaching semi-finals and finals but falling short.
"I think it certainly lifted our spirits, that’s for sure," he said. "We've been to semi-finals and finals so many times over the years and lost, it can take a while to get over that," he said.
Beirne also acknowledged the disappointment felt by the Leinster players, but for the Munster team, the victory brought a newfound energy and optimism. The players made the most of their three-week break after the win, celebrating and enjoying each other's company during weddings and gatherings.
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"So you kind of feel the pain for the Leinster lads as well, what they went through. Just for us it gave us a little pep in our step coming in, we didn’t have our heads down like we have probably in the past. It was a nice feeling for us, for sure." Has he had time to reflect on it? "Probably a week on the beer," grinned the Kildare man.
"No, we did, we had three weeks off afterwards and we certainly made the most of it. "With all the weddings and stuff, we were seeing each other a lot so we certainly got to celebrate it, for sure.
Munster and Ireland scrum-half Craig Casey also admitted that they jokingly thought about wearing URC champions hats, but decided against it. "It has been good, gloating about it a bit. Gav Coombes wanted to bring the URC champions hats in but we went against that!"
"Twelve years without it, as a Munster fan that was a long enough wait. But then when you're in and you're playing and it has been a few years when you’ve got close enough but haven’t fired shots, we went down to South Africa confident we could win.
Ireland's game against Italy will start at 8pm later tonight.