Munster trained in the University of Limerick today as they completed an overnight camp ahead of Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.15pm).
Preparations continued with the Munster ‘A’ team also in action this weekend, facing Connacht Eagles at the Sportsground on Friday (kick-off 2.30pm).
The last time Munster were in action was against Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup and it will be the league leaders’ first home PRO12 game of 2014.
Their head coach Rob Penney was full of praise for the Thomond Park crowd and is hopeful the Munster supporters will be out in force.
“They’re terrific for us,” he said. “Hopefully there will be a lot of people there to embrace this mixture of experience and youth.
“We will have a real crack and see if we can get points against Cardiff and get this little four-week block on the road for us nicely.”
Munster winger Simon Zebo recently returned to full fitness and New Zealander Penney is looking forward to seeing more from the Corkman after two appearances as a replacement in January.
“He’s a terrific footballer, he had that niggly injury but that’s all healed up now and he’s maintained his physical state really well. Now it’s about him performing and showing the world what he’s capable of.”
South African CJ Stander, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with the province, is looking forward to Saturday’s clash with ninth-placed Cardiff.
“They’re a really tough side, it’s going to be a good game. All the internationals are away so it’s going to be a nice, open game. The crowd at Thomond Park always lift me up so hopefully they can lift the whole team,” said the back rower.
Cardiff Blues’ Robin Copeland, who will join Munster in the summer, was included in Ireland’s Six Nations squad but flanker Barry O’Mahony is hoping that Copeland features for his Welsh regional side this weekend.
O’Mahony has been in fine form for Munster ‘A’ and the flanker is excited by the prospect of facing the Wexford man.
“It will be interesting, I played Sevens with Robin a couple of summers back. We toured around Ireland playing in different tournaments so I know him well,” he said.
“He’s a great player and there will be no love lost anyway if he comes over this weekend!”
It is good news on the injury front for Munster as Sean Dougall (ankle), Cathal Sheridan (knee) and Luke O’Dea (hand) returned to training this week. O’Dea was available to play for Shannon in the Ulster Bank League last Saturday, but the game was postponed.
It is also positive news for Donnacha Ryan and Ivan Dineen. Ryan is continuing his recovery from a knee injury with limited training this week, while Dineen has started rehab running after injuring his ankle for Munster ‘A’ against Nottingham.
Paddy Butler’s fitness is improving after he hurt his neck playing for Shannon recently against Blackrock College in the Ulster Bank League, but he will not be involved in training this week.
Damien Varley did not train today after sustaining delayed concussion from the game against Edinburgh. Varley will complete the IRB return-to-play protocols before he is back in action.
Academy player Johnny Holland returned to training after injuring his ribs playing for Munster ‘A’ against Stirling.
Tickets for the Munster v Cardiff Blues RaboDirect PRO12 match can be purchased online here.