Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and the full coaching team met with media in UL on Wednesday afternoon and issued the first player update of the season.
Disappointingly, after only joining the province at the end of June, Sam Arnold has been ruled out of the opening period of the season after sustaining a knee injury during training.
There was better news for Tyler Bleyendaal (quad), who is in line to return to action during the Kearys Renault pre-season Series at the end of the month as he continues to make good progress in training.
Francis Saili (shoulder) and Peter O’Mahony (knee) are continuing to follow their respective rehabilitation programmes, with Rassie Erasmus noting it would be ‘touch and go’ on either player featuring in the opening rounds of the GUINNESS PRO12.
South African Erasmus also confirmed that Johnny Holland is currently under medical review as he continues to manage a hamstring complaint, while Mark Chisholm has yet to return to training after sustaining a concussion against the Newport Gwent Dragons in March.
Development player Sean McCarthy (knee) also continues to follow his rehabilitation programme during the pre-season period.
As per previous seasons, a number of additional club players are recruited to train over the pre-season weeks with Conor Fitzgerald (Ard Scoil Rís), Alan Fitzgerald (Shannon), John Poland (Cork Constitution) and former Leinster centre Colm O’Shea all involved this week.
On the new arrival front, it is expected that Munster’s latest signing Jean Kleyn will join up with the squad next week, subject to being granted a valid work permit.
It is the start of a new era for the Reds, with Erasmus in the director of rugby role and the coaching ticket also including Anthony Foley (head coach), Jerry Flannery (scrum coach), Felix Jones (attack and skills coach) and Jacques Nienaber, the former Western Province, Stormers and South Africa defence coach.
Talking about his approach for his debut campaign, Erasmus said: “I made sure that when we started on the Monday, we didn’t see the players for the first two weeks, we just sat and said, ‘listen guys, we have to align our coaching for the rest of the year, we have to be 100% right’.
“Everybody presented on their specific area and the other guys could shoot holes into that and say, ‘that won’t work’, and then we all worked it out and agreed.
“So it won’t be a mixture, if I can put it that way. Now it’s what we had as players, what has worked for us in the past, what has worked for Munster in the past and reduce that to where can we get to.
“Then we gave it to the players and said, ‘let’s have a bash out here’, and now we’ve been coaching it that way. I think it will always be evolving but I can’t tell you we’re not going the running way, the kicking way, the conservative way. In certain facets of the game we’ve got certain principles and hopefully you can see when the matches start that that’s the way the guys are going to play.
“It’s tough to stand here and say, ‘we’re going to run’ or ‘we’re going to be conservative’. If you ask me how we’re going to counter attack, how we’re going to scrum, or what are we going to do from lineouts, how are we going to defend, we can get into detail on that, but we actually blocked it like that and saw each facet through.”
The 43-year-old ex-Springbok flanker added: “Target wise, I would be naive to think if we don’t have a massive improvement on last year, I’m not naive enough to think people will say, ‘oh we’re trying hard, we’re improving slowly, don’t worry, you’ll be there…’. I’ve been there and if we don’t see a massive improvement we’ll all be under pressure.
“Massive improvement is probably relative, but for me it’s winning more games than we’re losing, and winning more games than last year.”