5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
The twelfth Heineken Cup begins on Friday, October 20 - the following afternoon Ulster kick-off their Pool 5 run against Toulouse (Ravenhill, 1.35pm), Leinster are at home to Gloucester that day in Pool 2 (Lansdowne Road, 5.30pm), while Sunday, October 22 will see reigning champions Munster travel to meet Leicester in Pool 4 (Welford Road, 3pm).
The Craigavon-born Best is still recovering from the broken ankle he sustained towards the end of last season. After some extensive training and physio work, the 28-year-old is nearing a return but has not set a date as "the easiest way to get my head around it is to not set any targets. When I'm right, they'll tell me."
Best does not see any reason why he cannot come back "in the best shape" of his rugby career. He said: "When I come back, I will be sharper, bigger and stronger. I've had four or five months working on my upper body and I have probably never had as long a pre-season before - normally one season rolls into the next."
Leinster's assistant coach Mike Brewer and Munster coach Declan Kidney at the launch at Heineken Ireland's headquarters in Leitrim Street.
Declan Kidney, who has appointed the Heineken Cup's record points scorer Ronan O'Gara as one of Munster's vice captains for this season.
Speaking at the tournament's launch, out-half O'Gara is hopeful that Munster's back line can improve as the year goes on. He admitted: "The back line got criticised a fair bit last season but we still won a Heineken Cup with that standard. I just think we're not anywhere near our potential, especially from a technical point of view.
"I thought there were massive strides made in last season's (Heineken Cup) quarter-final, semi-final and final in terms of our ability as a back line.
"There is definitely more to come - I just think there are a fair few backs there that would probably be able to express themselves even more. Barry Murphy looks great in training again. We have Keith Earls (from the Munster Academy) training with us too which is great to see. He's a really nice player as well."
Peter Stringer, Kieran Lewis and Simon Best, who boast 102 Heineken Cup caps between them. Munster number 9 Stringer has made 60 starts in the competition to date.
Stringer's Munster team-mate Denis Leamy, speaking at the launch, gave an insight into the men in red's attitudes ahead of the start of the 2006/07 Heineken Cup. The Tipperary man said: "Deccie (Kidney) has likened the 2006 win to golf terms in that we're a bit like Colin Montgomerie - we were always there or thereabouts but we never won it.
"Now that we have won a major title, we want to become more like Tiger Woods - we want to win it every year or every day as Woods seems to do when he hits the fairways.
"That's the attitude we've got to take. We've got to think we can got out and be there or thereabouts this year. Hopefully we can move on and learn from this success."
In a repeat of last year's Heineken Cup semi-final, Leinster and Munster will renew their rivalries in Friday's Magners League clash at Lansdowne Road. Key man O'Gara is expecting Leinster to throw everything at his side.
"I think Leinster are going to have that feeling (of it being a grudge match). From our point of view it's not that easy. You probably don't have that inner hurt that the boys in Leinster are feeling now but that's the challenge for us. We've got make sure that, as Heineken Cup winners, we got out and demonstrate that we're a better team," said the Corkman.
"I may be proven wrong but it's a great game to be part of - an exciting one. That's the great thing about this weekend, there's talk of over 20,000 fans going to a Celtic League game and I think that creates a great buzz amongst everyone."
**All photos by Neil Danton of Inpho Photography**