Just six weeks after they signed off on the 2008/09 season, the first batch of the Munster players will assemble early next week in Cork and Limerick to begin preparations for the new campaign.
The Munster players not involved in the Lions or Churchill Cup squads will assemble next Monday morning in their respective Cork and Limerick gyms to begin their pre-season training regime under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Paul Darbyshire.
The likes of Marcus Horan, Ciaran O’Boyle, Alan Quinlan, Ian Dowling, Barry Murphy and Paul Warwick will report back for duty to conditioning coaches Tom Comyns and Joe Gallanagh in UL on Monday.
At the same time, Daragh Hurley, Doug Howlett, Billy Holland, Denis Leamy, Lifeimi Mafi, James Coughlan and others will present themselves to Darbyshire and Aidan O’Connell at the Cork facility in Forge Hill.
All those senior internationals will be joined by Academy and Development squad members, and the players involved in the recent Churchill Cup success will arrive back on Monday, July 13 followed by Munster’s 2009 Lions three weeks later.
One of Munster’s newcomers this season is Killaloe native Damien Varley who returns to Limerick and Munster after a season with London Wasps.
Varley, who won Munster Senior Cup, AIB Cup and AIB League Division One medals with Garryowen, was in the extended Munster pre-season training squad in 2006 and was offered a trial by Shaun Edwards last summer.
The trial resulted in a contract with Wasps and Varley took himself off to Richmond in south London and a house share with Mossie Lawlor.
He played Guinness Premiership rugby against Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks before Christmas but once word leaked out that there was perhaps a move back to Munster on his mind, Wasps possibly decided to invest time in others.
“It came about when Pat Chesser contacted Warren Gatland and he in turn got onto Shaun Edwards. I really enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot and it’s an experience I think that will stand to me,” Varley said.
“I was, of course, delighted when Munster contacted me and it’s great to be back home and with a squad like Munster. I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.”
Varley and his new team-mates’ first away trip together will be in the first week of August when they head to Portugal for a week long pre-season training camp.
On their return, Munster have pre-season friendlies against Sale Sharks (in Cork on August 14), London Irish (in Cork on August 21) and Leicester Tigers in Welford Road on August 28, before they begin their Magners League title defence the following weekend.