It's easy to forget that when Munster took on Toulouse in that agonising Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final defeat in May, they did so without a number of their biggest hitters.

Andrew Conway was, and still is, sidelined with a knee injury, while Gavin Coombes, Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Beirne were also absent due to injury.

In spite of that, they came within a whisker of whisker of defeating the five-time champions, running out of steam to give up a 24-14 lead, ultimately losing in a placekicking competition after one of the most absorbing game of rugby in the 27 years of the Champions Cup.

Johann van Graan's side came out swinging that day. They always do in Europe, going back as far as the Declan Kidney days, and there's little to suggest that will change under Graham Rowntree.

"Especially at a club like Munster, there's a special feeling around Europe," Beirne said, as they prepare for a rematch with Toulouse this Sunday (live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player).

"Whether we mean to or not, the mood lifts when it comes into European Cup weeks. It's no different this week."

It's been backs to the wall rugby from Munster for a few weeks now.

Having lost five of seven games in the opening block of the season, they've found themselves in a situation where every game is as important as the last. The recent bonus-point wins against Connacht and Edinburgh - the latter seeing them come from 12-0 and 17-7 down in the opening half - has steadied the ship and given them some momentum heading into the busy winter block of games.

Beirne watches on as Craig Casey scores one of their five tries against Edinburgh last Friday

Sunday's meeting with Toulouse is the third of a 10-game stretch between now and the Six Nations, where the margin for error is tiny.

And Beirne says the attitude shown to dig themselves out of a hole in Edinburgh last Friday is a huge positive, adding that the high stakes are bringing out the best in them.

"The big thing was that not one person panicked.

"Of course, it's exciting in terms of knowing your backs are against the wall and you're fighting for everything.

"The weeks are quite exciting in terms of that, we're into pretty much knockout rugby when it comes to Champions Cup; you can't really afford to lose games and you want to have the home last 16, home quarters.

"You could certainly feel it when we came back, lads were gunning to go again in the URC. We certainly built on that feeling, and I think we've come away with maximum points in the last two games, which is massive for us."

"If we're being honest, those first two URC games after the break were essentially knockout games for us.

"We said that we didn't talk about the table, but we more or less said that if we don't win these games we're pretty much in a lot of trouble.

"We turned out these performances with our backs against the wall and it's no different this weekend.

"I'm guessing we're not favourites, but we'll certainly relish it. Especially at home in Thomond."

The Autumn Nations Series arrived at the right time for the province. While they were beginning to show signs of improvement in their performances, those improvements weren't reflected in the results as they lost to Leinster and Ulster in the last two weeks of October.

They were also mired in an unprecedented injury crisis, which saw them pick up John Ryan, Kiran McDonald and Oli Morris on emergency contracts, Munster being the unlikely beneficiaries of the financial crises at Wasps and Worcester.

The November international break allowed Munster get bodies back on the pitch, and also iron out the creases in the gameplan, with a morale-boosting win against a South African selection at Páirc Uí Chaoimh keeping them ticking over.

"They're a bit of everything, physical, set-piece wise they're strong in the scrum, and they have individual talent, they're easy on the eye as a spectator that's for sure."

And Beirne, who came straight back into the team after playing in all three of Ireland's games in November, says there was a noticeable difference between the Munster camp he left in October, and returned to at the end of November.

"I'd say so, I think the South Africa game was absolutely massive for the club, the attendance, the occasion, and how much of a buzz it brought to the group.

"There were a lot of young lads involved in that game as well. For the lads to turn out a performance against a South Africa A side that was as strong as they were, it was a massive confidence booster.

"You could certainly feel it when we came back, lads were gunning to go again in the URC. We certainly built on that feeling, and I think we've come away with maximum points in the last two games, which is massive for us. What we want to do now is continue the momentum and bring it into the Champions Cup."

The 30-year-old has been at the top of his game this season, recently named to World Rugby Men's 15s Team of the Year, while the Blue Scrumcap was a welcome presence in the Munster pack in their games against Connacht and Edinburgh, Munster bringing their Ireland internationals straight back into action after the Autumn Nations Series, such was the need for results.

Beirne will have to sit out a couple of games later in this block of matches, but for now he says he's reaping the rewards of playing every week.

Beirne started all three of Ireland's games in the Autumn Nations Series

"I'm feeling good, I'm happy to be injury free and to be playing.

"I feel fit, I'm certainly enjoying my rugby and hopefully I can keep building on it and improving."

"I think it's probably good for me, I like to play a couple of games on the bounce, in terms of my performance, it helps for sure.

"Sometimes that can't always happen, but I'm enjoying it.

"I'm sure at some point it'll become a lot for the body, but I'm enjoying it now and looking forward to the weekend."

And he's expecting the level of physicality brought by Toulouse this week to be on par with Ireland's Test matches last month.

"I think Europe in general, the physicality in these games certainly takes a step up. It's just the nature of the beast. I think everyone is chasing that trophy and when you play the French teams, and even a lot of the English teams, they do have a bit more size than a lot of us, especially the Irish teams I suppose.

"They're a bit of everything, physical, set-piece wise they're strong in the scrum, and they have individual talent, they're easy on the eye as a spectator that's for sure.

"Off loose ball they can turn it into a try out of nothing, you just don't have a second on the field to switch off on the pitch, you just have to be on at every moment. You will be punished if you do have those moments where you just knock off for a split second. That's what you can't do against a side like this."

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