The home of Munster rugby, Thomond Park, is to be given a €40 million facelift that will bring the capacity of the ground to 26,000 and should be open for business in the autumn of 2008.

Known world-wide already as a ground which hosts the most animated supporters in the world the new look Thomond Park will have two new stands in addition to new changing rooms, medical suite, executive boxes, banqueting facilities and supporters bars.

Two sweeping arches of the new stands will ultimately become an image that everyone will associate with the famous ground at which Munster have never lost a Heineken cup game in its eleven seasons and where the All-Blacks were beaten on October 31st 1978, the only defeat of that tour.

Planning permission will be sought in July of this year and all the work will be completed within eighteen months.

When completed there will be seating for 15,000 and terrace capacity of 11,000.

Pat Whelan, former International and former Irish team coach, said: "The re-development represents a major project for Munster and Irish rugby."

Munster Branch President, Ken Lyons, said: "There are very few rugby followers in the world who are not aware of the history and great traditions associated with rugby at Thomond Park. This re-development is entirely fitting, more so in view of Munster's magnificent Heineken European cup win last week-end".

Richard Leng, Chairman of AFL, stadium architects, said "The development will provide state of the art facilities for spectators, supporters, and players in an environment where the unique atmosphere of Munster rugby will be retained and intensified.

Down the years what has made Thomond Park legendary for its atmosphere has been the proximity of supporters to the pitch. This, according to Hugh Murray of Murray O'Laoire architects, "will enhance the legendary intensity of the Munster experience by having 15,000 as close to the pitch as possible."

To facilitate the new plans the IRFU purchased several houses adjacent to the ground at Knockalisheen Road which, if not sold by the owners, could have jeopardised the project.