Any man that arrives at Munster from the Southern Hemisphere and becomes the team captain within a couple of years (as voted so by the players) must be doing something right. The 1999 World Cup winner initially arrived for a two year spell but he ended up being at Munster for six years, and if he had not gotten the call to be Robbie Deans assistant coach he would probably still be there. All in all he represented Munster 30 times in the Heineken Cup and he scored three tries, and he will always be remembered as one of Munster's greatest signings.
Rocky Elsom (Leinster via Australia)
He arrived at the RDS as an astute looking signing. He left a year later as arguably the greatest rugby player on the planet. No one, with perhaps the exception of Brian O'Driscoll, had more of an influence on Leinster lifting last year's Heineken Cup than the immense Australian blindside. Blindsides are not supposed to make regular line breaks. Rocky did. They generally do not get many man of the match awards. Rocky did, and regularly. Throw in regular turnovers at the breakdown, crunching tackles and brilliant all round leadership and Elsom was pretty much the perfect rugby player. He will be missed at the RDS.
Doug Howlett (Munster via New Zealand)
Anyone who witnessed Howlett hopping on one leg to prevent Benetton Treviso scoring a try at an important juncture in the recent Heineken Cup Pool 5 match will realise that he is not here for the paycheck. The record All Black try scorer faced a baptism of fire on his Heineken Cup debut at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin in a seriously difficult away tie at Clermont Auvergne in early 2008. Munster looked like they were going to be cleaned out 5-0 early doors, but they hung in there and came out with an extremely hard fought losing bonus point to counter Clermont's four. It showed the beauty of European rugby club competition that a close defeat away from home can be viewed upon as a triumph, as it set Munster up for a quarter final slot, albeit away from home at Kingsholm, which was the scene for arguably Howlett's greatest moment in the Munster No. 14 jersey.
It came early in the second half when inexperienced full back Denis Hurley kicked a beautiful grubber towards Gloucester's right hand corner flag and Howlett slid in to score right under SKY's watching cameras as if by design. Another famous Munster victory had been assured. Howlett was unlucky to have a try disallowed in the final against Toulouse but he was still to garner a winner's medal only four months after arriving on Irish shores - already a Munster legend.
Percy Montgomerie (Newport Gwent Dragons & Perpignan via South Africa)
Montgomerie sandwiched the 2007 World Cup win by playing in Europe for both the Dragons and Perpignan. While never enjoying a great deal of success in Wales or France he was undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Europe during his spells here, even if he did receive a six month ban for pushing a touch judge while in action for Newport (before they morphed into the Dragons) in 2003. He only stayed for one year in Perpignan before returning to Western Province but he left Europe both with a healthier bank balance and a burgeoned reputation.
Trevor Halstead (Munster via South Africa)
Halstead spent two years at Thomond Park and was on the losing side on just one occasion on Heineken Cup duty for Munster. Before you go double checking Munster's Heineken Cup results from 2005 to 2007 let me point out that the Springbok centre missed Munster's defeat away to Sale at Edgeley Park in late 2005 and also the defeat at home to Leicester in January of 2007. His one defeat came in his last game in the quarter final defeat of 2007 against Llanelli Scarlets. That loss signalled his final Heineken Cup appearance for the province, but it also signalled the end of Munster's reign as champions of Europe.
The thing is, Halstead had such a major say in helping them to gain that crown. Munster had been regularly getting within reach of the 'Holy Grail' but always found themselves coming up just short, as they lacked that pertinent 'x-factor' they required to take the difficult final step. Halstead provided this, and nowhere was this seen more prominently than his nerve settling try in the first half of the 2006 final against Biarittz that set Munster on their way. A short stay, for sure, but a most memorable and productive one.