With Munster having avoided defeat against Ulster on the last five occasions the interprovincial rivals have locked horns, prop Dave Kilcoyne has cited the Thomond Park outfit’s most recent success over their northern neighbours as one of the catalysts for a rejuvenated season.
In each of the past two campaigns, the double Heineken Cup winners have triumphed in Belfast, and back in October secured a one-point victory when Rory Scannell knocked over a late drop goal at Kingspan.
“It was important,” admitted the Irish international ahead of tomorrow’s rematch in Limerick.
“We often refer back to that game. Ulster is one of the hardest places to get a win. That was a changing point in our season.
“Lads built real confidence from it and it propelled us into the position we are in today.”
And that position could hardly be rosier, with Rassie Erasmus’s men looking set for a home semi-final in the PRO12 and preparing for a last four clash with Ulster’s old foes Saracens in the Champions Cup.
“There is an incredible buzz around the place,” he added.
“We still won’t take away from the task at hand, playing Ulster this week. They’re on quite the run of form at present.
“They are undefeated in the last seven games. I know they drew with Cardiff recently enough, I just think they are still on a roll. They are a hungry side, we are a hungry side, both chasing things.
“We are chasing a home semi-final, they are chasing a top four spot, so any time two hungry sides play each other it is a good spectacle. I think Saturday is going to be a great game.
“Irish derbies always are tough. There are knock-on implications for everything. There are home semi-finals at stake, top four places, Irish selection and just how both things go.”
Indeed, no matter what selection Munster make, with Ulster having to arrive locked and loaded thanks to their desperate need for points to boost a play-off push, Kilcoyne believes the match presents the ideal preparation for next week’s much anticipated clash with the European champions in the Aviva.
“There’s no point saying that Saracens isn’t to the forefront of our minds, because it definitely is,” he said.
“We will focus on this week’s game but we’ll definitely be putting things in place to combat Saracens the following week and I don’t think we could get a better challenge before that game than to play a hungry Ulster side in Thomond Park.”
Meanwhile Conor Joyce, who was in the Ulster team when they last beat Munster in 2014, will leave his native province for English Championship side Jersey Reds this summer.
The 23-year-old backrower made his debut for the side during a 42-13 defeat to Leinster in the RDS all the way back in the winter of 2011 but managed just five more outings for the senior team.
“Conor has showed in the British & Irish Cup games that he has the ability to be a stand-out Championship player,” said his new head coach Harvey Biljon.
Jersey are fifth in the English second tier and have former Ulster wing Ross Adair in their squad.