Thomond Park holds no fears for Neil Best – and the Irish international back rower is adamant his Northampton Saints team-mates can draw strength from their recent experiences there when they return to Munster’s stronghold for their Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown on Saturday.

It will be meeting No 3 of the season between the teams after Saints won the Pool 1 opener 31-27 at Franklin’s Gardens and former double Heineken Cup champions Munster won the final group match 12-9 in Limerick less than three months ago.

Now the prize is an away semi-final contest against either Biarritz Olympique or the Ospreys early next month with Best and fellow Saint and Irish international Roger Wilson – both former Ulster Rugby stars – well acquainted with the demands of travelling to play a team who have lost just once in their last 42 home Heineken Cup matches.

“Roger and I have played there numerous times and I know none of our players will be daunted by going there in the quarter-finals,” said Best. “That last match gave us a lot of confidence and that is very encouraging as we prepare to go back for a huge game.

“The big thing is that we believe in ourselves wherever we are playing and know we could have won that match at Thomond in January. If I remember correctly the pivotal period was when Dylan (Hartley) charged down a box kick and we had to score from a scrum on their line.

“However, it ended up with them clearing their line and holding on for the win.

“Munster have such a great pedigree and history in the Heineken Cup and their player welfare now is such that players are rested ready for the big games – and this is one of the biggest when those who have had a bit of time off are back in the team.

“The atmosphere and hype surrounding matches at Thomond, the sea of red supporters and everyone talking about the game means it is just great to be part of it all and play at the ground.

“Our travelling support is superb but I am not bothered if I am playing in front of one man in a flat cap with his dog or 80,000, though I accept the first 20 minutes on Saturday will be crucial.

“All in all it is going to be a very difficult encounter but we are also a good team.

“People were saying that our home win against them in Round 1 was one of the best games they had seen in years. We played really well in matching their ferocity and intensity and tactically we were very clever and it was certainly a great match to play in and to win.”

The Saints, who beat Leeds Carnegie 14-7 at the weekend, are in second spot in the Premiership and the first to qualify for the 2010/11 Heineken Cup after lifting the LV= Cup final but Best is adamant that the ambitious Saints have the treble of LV=Cup, Heineken Cup and Premiership crown in their sights.

“The prize is to win all three – and we have only done one third of that – although the LV= Cup final was a tremendous spectacle plus we ensured Heineken Cup qualification as well,” he said.

“But the next day it was back to work as we looked ahead to what we still have to do in the Premiership and, more immediately, in the Heineken Cup.”