Munster ‘A’ will start the inaugural British & Irish Cup with a visit to English Championship side Coventry on Saturday, November 21. Munster ‘A’ coach Anthony Foley feels the new competition is ‘a great idea’ and a way for developing players to put themselves in the shop window for senior selection.
Munster ‘A’ have some tough opposition to overcome in Pool B of the upcoming British & Irish Cup, with Bristol, Coventry, Heriot’s, Neath and Nottingham all gunning to reach the semi-finals in April.
Anthony Foley’s side, 21-15 winners over Leinster ‘A’ recently, are in the midst of completing their preparations for the new competition.
On Friday afternoon, they will host the Ulster Ravens in what is sure to be a keenly-contested interpro derby at Musgrave Park (kick-off 2pm).
Munster ‘A’, coached by Foley and Ian Costello, scored 17 second half points to beat their Ulster counterparts 28-11 when the sides met at Shaw’s Bridge in September.
A third successive win would certainly boost confidence levels ahead of their British & Irish Cup opener away to Coventry.
Foley said: “I was happy enough with our display that day in Belfast. It was our first outing and we handled playing against a strong wind well in the first half.
“But we’re also aware that it wasn’t the strongest side Ulster could have put out. Injuries to their senior panel meant a call-up for lads who would have expected to play against us. So we’d be expecting a much stronger challenge this time.”
Foley has made five changes to the side that beat Leinster ‘A’ last time out, with Paul Rowley replacing the injured Duncan Williams at scrum half and the Ireland-capped Denis Hurley and ‘A’ international Felix Jones coming in for Danny Barnes and Ronan O’Mahony respectively.
Ian Nagle returns in the second row alongside Dave Foley, while experienced hooker Damien Varley will start in the front row. Number 8 James Coughlan will captain the side.
“These lads know each other well from training and while there’s no substitute for game time, we’d be hopeful they’ll settle early on against Ulster.
“These games are ideal preparation for the British & Cup. In fact, playing the likes of Ulster, and Leinster before that, with the sort of rivalry that exists between us all, couldn’t be better preparation.”
So what does the former Ireland back rower and Munster’s most-capped player of all time make of the advent of the British & Irish Cup?
“I think it’s a great idea. It gives us the chance to expose lads to a level they haven’t experienced before and hopefully help them along the way to a place in the senior squad,” admitted Foley.
“Obviously we haven’t a lot to work on in terms of our opposition but we had a sort of sneak preview with the Bristol v Coventry game that was on television last week.
“It certainly heightened the excitement levels and we’re definitely looking forward to it.
“But foremost in our heads is this game on Friday. We’ll deal with that first and then concentrate on the British & Irish Cup.”
MUNSTER ‘A’ (v Ulster Ravens): Danny Riordan; Felix Jones,Tom Gleeson, Scott Deasy, Denis Hurley; Declan Cusack, Paul Rowley; Dave Kilcoyne, Damian Varley, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Dave Foley, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan (capt).
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Christy Condon, Kieran Essex, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Mahony, Eric Moloney.