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Ambition Still Burns Bright For Stringer

Ambition Still Burns Bright For Stringer

Attitude and work ethic. Words that have regularly tripped off Rob Penney’s tongue as he recounts the efforts of the Munster players during their first pre-season regime under the New Zealander.

Much of the media focus ahead of Munster’s RaboDirect PRO12 opener against Edinburgh on Saturday has been about the province’s new players, but an old hand is determined to shine in the early season and beyond.

Peter Stringer, so often the heartbeat of Munster sides over the years, fits neatly with those buzz words of ‘attitude’ and ‘work ethic’. He is back in the red of his home province after successful loan spells with Saracens and Newcastle Falcons last season.

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The scrum half moved across the water after falling down the pecking order at Munster with fellow Ireland internationals Conor Murray and Tomas O’Leary picked ahead of him.

Stringer’s run of games in England helped pave the way for a one-year contract extension with Munster. Commenting on the deal which was confirmed last March, he said at the time: “I have a massive love for the game, huge ambition and great desire to achieve things and to play at the highest level.

“I feel this is a stepping stone and by no means a stop-gap for me finishing the game. I want to keep playing, keep enjoying my rugby and I reckon I have a few years left in me. This is the best opportunity for me getting back to where I want to be.”

The 34-year-old has had to be content with cameos off the bench during Munster’s three-match pre-season run, with Rob Penney handing Duncan Williams the number 9 jersey instead.

Williams has managed to retain it for the Edinburgh game this weekend although Stringer, itching for regular game-time, is clearly relishing the battle he faces to reclaim that starting spot.

Speaking this week about his drive and focus for the new season, he said: “I must say it is good to be back. This is home. I wanted to give it another go here.

“Going away, you get confidence by playing week in, week out and a realisation you can still play the game at the highest level. I still have goals and ambitions to play at the highest level here and this is the place you want to be.

“I’m coming back and it’s my concern to play as well as I can. That’s always the attitude I’ve taken in to matches, regardless of who is coaching, and if I’m getting decent time on the pitch and playing well then it’s up to me.

“I see each season as a fresh start no matter where you are or what position you’re in. There’s a long break in the summer, players come back rejuvenated and with a clean slate.

“There’s good guys here now, a good squad ethos and players are looking for starting positions and that is what it’s all about.”

The enjoyment factor of playing regular rugby clearly fuels Stringer, whose well-honed attributes and skills stood up well to the abrasive and attritional nature of the Aviva Premiership.

“I was gone six months and personally it was all about game-time for me, really. It was the opportunity of playing somewhere else, which is something I haven’t really had over the years, but first and foremost it was about getting some time on the pitch and getting a run.

“Thankfully I played most weeks over there and as a rugby player I still have ambitions to play the game and love the game and that was what it was all about. I thoroughly enjoyed my time over there.

“Saracens had two injuries in the scrum half position and three months was the term they were out injured. That was enough for me to get some game-time and then Newcastle came looking and again it was just about getting more game-time.

“So, I took the decision to go up there and thankfully I played five or six games up there, the full 80 minutes, and again I enjoyed my time up there.”

Now back with Munster, the 98-times capped Ireland international is a rejuvenated figure amidst the province’s new dawn.

He feels he has a lot more to offer despite his veteran status, with the challenge of restoring Munster to the top of the pile domestically and in Europe galvanising everyone in the Penney-led set-up.

“It would have been an easy decision to stay here last year, tag along and not be playing but I still just want to play the game. I feel good about my rugby this year and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in,” he added.