The European rugby heavyweights that are Munster and Leicester have enjoyed a ferocious rivalry, stemming from that notorious Neil Back scrum-slap incident in 2002.
Since then the sides have clashed in several monumental encounters. If Leicester Tigers' coach Matt O'Connor's comments today are anything to go by, the rivalry is alive and well:
🗣 “The don’t have the monopoly on hate ... I can tell you that.”
The gaffer responds to questions about the Irish enjoying the arrival of English clubs in #ChampionsCup 🏆
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) December 5, 2017
It is likely the "hate" O'Connor references is not actually in existence within Munster but rather a clever motivational ploy from the former Leinster coach, but the clubs do have a history.
After 2002 a certain 'niggle' was inevitable, but then Leicester only went and ended Munster's unbeaten record at home in the European Cup. After 12 seasons of slaying visitors, Leicester arrived in 2007 and ended the streak. They did so with a gameplan of paying as little respect to the Red Army as possible.
In the build-up to that game, Tigers' head coach Pat Howard called Thomond Park "just a field" while the Leicester squad were urged to dominate "mentally, physically and verbally" by messages on the dressing room wall.
On the 12 December 2015, Leicester backed up that victory by again beating Munster on their home patch. It was an infamous low moment for the province, as they struggled for form and booed Ian Keatley off the field. It was a bitter-cold night in Limerick and the stadium was less than 3/4 full, with many more leaving before full-time. The travelling Leicester fans thoroughly enjoyed the performance and even celebrated their city's coinciding soccer success, singing 'Jamie Vardy's having a party' long into the night.
Munster finally extracted revenge last year, when they hammered Leicester 38-0 at home. During the away game they lost out by 2 points.
Hatred is certainly too strong but there is unquestionably a healthy rivalry between the sides. It is something new Munster head coach Johann Van Graan is keenly aware of, as he outlined to Gerry Doyle of the Times UK:
I've read about Munster versus Leicester in the past, did a bit of research on the two games last year and more of the big-picture stuff about what’s happening off the field and the way that the people react to this rivalry.
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony also made reference to their battles this week:
We’ve had some great encounters with them and they are a different animal in the Champions Cup, and we are expecting a quality, quality performance from them.
Of course, there is not only pride at stake. Munster will be desperate for a home win in order to improve their chances of qualification. The sides are currently tied on top of the table, with both securing 6 points from 2 games so far.
If anything, that'll only add to Saturday's drama.