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LIMERICK - Today's Thomond Park bears little resemblance to the ramshackle ground Munster's rugby heroes entered with trepidation against the All Blacks 30 years ago.

But the current side share one similarity with their illustrious predecessors - apprehension at facing the All Blacks.

The fabled Munster side of 1978 initially feared copping a terrible pounding from Graham Mourie's eventual Grand Slam winners before they achieved a remarkable 12-0 victory.

Deep down the scratch side assembled for a one-off reunion with the All Blacks tomorrow (8.30am NZT) face the same mental anxieties.

Munster's Australian coach Tony McGahan is already braced for an onslaught from an All Blacks eight featuring new caps Ben Franks and Scott Waldrom by naming only two backs on his bench.

McGahan has been denied 10 test players involved in the 22-3 loss to the All Blacks in Dublin last weekend, and acknowledged the composition on his reserves reflected an almost complete lack of experience up front.

Three of his starters have Irish caps, though not recently.

Retirement-bound Argentina-born prop Federico Pucciariello has played eight times for his adopted Italy, starting at the 1999 World Cup.

Lock Mick O'Driscoll and No 8 Denis Leamy have been released from Ireland's extended squad and prop Tony Buckley, a reserve at Croke Park, can play off the bench.

Munster's run-on pack for a match which also heralds the reopening of Munster's state of the art headquarters emphasises the depleted nature of the reigning Heineken Cup champions.

Six first choice forwards - David Wallace, Alan Quinlan, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, John Hayes and Marcus Horan - are in Dublin preparing for Sunday's test with Argentina.

Munster do not provide as many international backs although Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary and Keith Earls are integral members of their provincial team.

On a positive note, 85-test halfback Peter Stringer, now a third-choice option at international level, has been released with uncapped wing Ian Dowling for a contest that has still managed to captivate the locals, despite their B team's onerous task.

McGahan's predicament has not been helped by being able to train his 22-man squad together just once, on Sunday.

Another 20 minutes was allocated under Thomond Park's lights, 24 hours from kick-off.

"We would have liked more but we certainly knew coming into this game there would be a restricted training process," he said.

Ironically Munster's best opportunity to emulate the legends of 1978 could rest with their ex-pat New Zealanders - Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki and Lifeimi Mafi.

Howlett's seven years of test match experience has been identified as a useful source of information as McGahan manages a fractured preparation.

"We've delved into his experience," he said.

"Doug has a good handle on the New Zealand psyche and the style of play we're looking at."

Howlett, who joined Munster shortly after his 62-cap test career ended at last year's World Cup, doubted his insights would be overly beneficial.

"I guess we can share our knowledge of some of the players but again we don't want to worry too much about the opposition," Howlett said.

"We'll have our own game plans .... the main thing is to not be overcome by the occasion."

Howlett will start at fullback with Earls unavailable and Denis Hurley injured.

Mafi and Tipoki combine in midfield - their presence gives McGahan some comfort.

"We still have a nucleus of backline players that are in and around the 22 that's selected each week," he said.

"We'll be able to put together some good first phase attacks and defensively we'll be strong."

McGahan said while the All Blacks would exert extreme pressure, his side hoped to apply some stress of their own.

"We're not just going to wait back and try to fill holes, we're going to go out and attack them."

The 1978 team will present their modern day equivalents with a red jersey at a pre-match luncheon with Dowling already well aware of the match's significance.

"I've heard a lot about it - more so than the Heineken Cup wins we've had. That shows how much it means to the supporters."

The All Blacks, meanwhile, sat through a performance Alone It Stands last night - the play built around Munster's triumph.

"A couple of the boys almost fell out of their seats laughing at what was on show," said stand-in captain Piri Weepu, before coach Graham Henry adopted a serious tone when asked if this Munster side would be a pushover.

"They're fulfilling a huge tradition, they're playing for the people that have worn the Munster jersey before," he warned.

"I'm sure they're playing for the 1978 side - they'll play out of their skins."

All Blacks v Munster

Munster 0 New Zealand 33 at Markets Field, Limerick, Nov 28 1905
Munster 3 New Zealand 6 at Mardyke, Cork, Jan 1 1954
Munster 3 New Zealand 6 at Thomond Park, Limerick, Dec 11 1963
Munster 3 New Zealand 3 at Musgrave Park, Cork, Jan 1 1973
Munster 4 New Zealand 14 at Thomond Park, Limerick, Nov 9 1974
Munster 12 New Zealand 0 at Thomond Park, Limerick, Oct 31 1978
Munster 9 New Zealand 31 at Musgrave Park, Cork, Nov 11 1989

Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling, Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan, Donnacha Ryan, Mick O'Driscoll (captain), Timmy Ryan, Frank Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello. Reserves: Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mark Melbourne, John O'Sullivan, Billy Holland, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning.

All Blacks
Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu (captain), Liam Messam, Scott Waldrom, Adam Thomson, Jason Eaton, Ross Filipo, Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Hikawera Elliot, John Afoa, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read, Alby Mathewson, Richard Kahui, Mils Muliaina.