Munster’s Fitness and Conditioning coach Paul Darbyshire is looking forward to Saturday’s Heineken Cup clash with Wasps not just because the province’s players are in fine fettle but because it affords him a chance to look horns with his old friend Shaun Edwards.
Edwards, the Wasps coach, is hoping to guide the London club to back-to-back Heineken Cup and their defence of the title begins with that mouth-watering meeting with Munster, the 2005/06 champions.
Speaking ahead of the game, Darbyshire explained: “Shaun and I came from the same amateur (rugby league) club, Wigan St. Patrick’s, and later I played against him when I was at Warrington he was at Wigan, so yes I know Shaun well.
“He was a very skilful player. He’s a very determined guy whatever he puts his mind to and he’s done a great job at Wasps. He could be moving up to international standard and there’s no reason why not because he’s a quality coach.
“So I’m looking forward to catching up with him – haven’t met him in a few years.”
Darbyshire, who has been with Munster since June, revealed how the mood in the camp is good ahead of the weekend’s trip to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
“The players, they’re all in good spirits. There’s a lot of good work been done. The internationals coming back have slotted in quite well. Obviously there’s been a period of integration back into the squad but that’s gone very smoothly.
“With the lads coming back from the World Cup you would of course have liked maybe another week before facing into what we have to, but then it’s the same for every other team,” he added.
“Wasps are going to have players playing their first game this weekend so it’s the same for everybody. On that score it’s a pretty level playing field.
“We’ve tapered back training somewhat leading into the Heineken Cup games so hopefully they’ll be fresh going into the next two games. But yes, everyone’s buzzing and ready to go.”
Darbyshire feels that the game will be won and lost for Munster up front and that the men in red can use the fact that Wasps have moved the game away from their home ground of Adams Park to the larger Ricoh Arena to their advantage.
“Wasps are very physical up front, that’s something we must be ready for and match. We have some very useful backs but our forwards need to get on top of their pack if we are to allow those guys space to do any damage. So whoever wins up front I think holds the key to the game,” he admitted.
On the subject of the Ricoh Arena, Darbyshire added: “I don’t think it’ll be any advantage to either side. It’s going to be the same for both teams. It’s a neutral venue really, I know Wasps have played there in the past.
“Hopefully the Munster supporters will be there in their thousands. It’s a great surface, it’s a football surface and I know the guys are looking forward to playing on it.”