The Munster squad to face the Cardiff Blues in Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 encounter at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.05pm) has been named.
Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Donncha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Ronan O’Gara and Denis Hurley are absent from the squad due to international commitments.
Munster were the only side to grab a try-scoring bonus point in the RaboDirect PRO12 last weekend, and have lost just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions.
With the province’s senior and ‘A’ teams both in contention for silverware at this stage of the season, hooker Damien Varley has been pleased with the collective desire to produce results.
“We are in a good position in all competitions. We’ve worked hard and probably some results haven’t gone the way we would have liked them to have gone,” he told the Munster Rugby website.
“But we can’t complain at where we are in the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12 and the lads (in the ‘A’ side) are doing a great job in the British & Irish Cup.”
Roll back just twelve months and Munster’s surprise exit from the pool stages of the 2010/11 Heineken Cup had some critics suggesting that they were no longer a European powerhouse.
That thought has been emphatically answered in this campaign with Tony McGahan’s men securing six pool wins on the trot, including a memorable bonus point blitz of Northampton Saints away last month.
“There has been a lot of bad feeling out there towards where we are and where we have been, particularly after our Heineken Cup campaign last season, but it doesn’t really impact on us,” admitted Varley.
“We discussed it as a squad and went into this season knowing what we wanted to achieve out of the season.
“We are in a good position even though we haven’t been playing well on a consistent basis. What can you say about the guys who criticise you openly? Let them do what they want to do and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
That 51-36 beating of old foes Northampton is part of a four-match winning streak for Munster at the start of 2012.
The Cardiff Blues are next up at Thomond Park this Saturday, with Varley underlining how focused the players are on earning a play-off berth and retaining the league title.
“We have said something (with that performance against Northampton), but there is a lot more to say yet on the field.
“The Heineken Cup is the standard you want to set, it’s the competition where every team wants to set their standard and wants to win.
“But equally we want to win the PRO12 as much as the British & Irish Cup and the Heineken Cup, so we are not just relying on that.
“We have a lot of areas and preparation that we want to take forward in the next few weeks in the big PRO12 games we have coming up,” added the Ireland international.
MUNSTER Squad (v Cardiff Blues) – Backs (12): Tomas O’Leary, Duncan Williams, Cathal Sheridan, Ian Keatley, Scott Deasy, Sean Scanlon, Luke O’Dea, Simon Zebo, Lifeimi Mafi, Danny Barnes, Johne Murphy, Felix Jones.
Forwards (16): Marcus Horan, Wian du Preez, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, BJ Botha, Damien Varley, Denis Fogarty, Sean Henry, Mick O’Driscoll, Billy Holland, Dave Foley, Ian Nagle, David O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler, James Coughlan.