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Celtic League 2005/06: Munster

Celtic League 2005/06: Munster

Having reacclimatised down south, can returning Munster coach Declan Kidney provide the province with the fillip of a first Celtic League title since 2003?

Along with Kidney, Mick O’Driscoll has returned to Munster

Having reacclimatised down south, can returning Munster coach Declan Kidney provide the province with the fillip of a first Celtic League title since 2003?

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Head Coach: Declan Kidney; Assistant Coaches: Brian Hickey, Paul McCarthy, Graham Steadman, Jim Williams

Captain: Anthony Foley

Founded: 1879; Grounds: Thomond Park (Capacity 13,500), Musgrave Park (Capacity 8,000); Sponsors: Toyota

Transfers: In: Trevor Halstead (centre, Natal Sharks), Federico Pucciariello (prop, Bourgoin), Mick O’Driscoll (lock, Perpignan), John O’Sullivan (back row, Connacht), Tony Buckley (prop, Connacht)

Out: James Storey (London Irish), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps), James Blaney (Retired), Mike Storey (Retired), Tom Bowman (retired), Jim Williams (retired), Gordon McIlwham (retired), Jason Holland (retired)

2005/06 Squad: Tony Buckley, Paul Burke, Christian Cullen, Paul Devlin, Jerry Flannery, Anthony Foley, Trevor Halstead, John Hayes, Rob Henderson, Trevor Hogan, Marcus Horan, Anthony Horgan, John Kelly, Simon Keogh, Stephen Keogh, Mossie Lawlor, Denis Leamy, Jeremy Manning, Eugene McGovern, Mike Mullins, Barry Murphy, Frank Murphy, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Mick O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary, John O’Sullivan, Shaun Payne, Mike Prendergast, Federico Pucciariello, Alan Quinlan, Frank Roche, Frank Sheahan, Peter Stringer, David Wallace

Average Age: 27

Celtic League History:

2001/02: Runners-Up (Final: 20-24 v Leinster); 2002/03: Winners (Final: 37-17 v Neath); 2003/04: Seventh; 2004/05: Runners-Up

Top Points Scorers: Jeremy Staunton (258), Ronan O’Gara (218)

Top Try Scorers: Mike Mullins (16), Shaun Payne (13), Anthony Horgan (12)

Top Kickers (Conversions, Penalties): Jeremy Staunton (90), Ronan O’Gara (80)

2005/06 Odds To Win: 5/2 (Paddy Power)

Players To Watch:

Trevor Halstead: The former Springbok was an intriguing purchase during the summer. Do not expect blistering runs and cheeky sidesteps from Halstead, he covers the basics to a tee at inside centre and will be straight into the action with Mike Mullins a long-term absentee.

Mick O’Driscoll: Another new signing, but the Corkman is well used to the Munster set-up, having left the province for Perpignan two seasons ago. Back, hardened and grizzled by the French championship, the lock will be keen competition for Ireland and Lions duo Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan.

David Wallace: The flanker, turned winger for Munster’s opener against Borders, will surely have the bit between his teeth after returning to the Ireland set-up during the summer. At 29, he still has much to offer. Denis Leamy’s rise last year saw him on the sideline too often. A prolific ball-carrier, Wallace has been a latent talent.

Coach Speak: Declan Kidney: “The great thing is that it is a 20-game league and the best team comes out on top. You have to be consistent throughout the year.

“It’s a measure of the strength in depth of the squad. There are no meaningless games because it gives qualification for Europe and, I suppose, the only thing that’s wrong with the league is the perception that clubs have to field weakened teams at certain stages of the competition.

“I don’t look upon it that way. We live with a squad system and those chosen for any squad are entitled to get match time – there would be no point in signing players if you felt they weren’t good enough to play.”