Munster head coach Johann van Graan is looking forward to seeing how some of the province’s young up-and-coming players fare in the Kearys Renault Series, which begins this Friday against London Irish at Irish Independent Park (kick-off 7.30pm).
After a tough block of summer training, Munster will get their first hit-out of the pre-season campaign when they host Declan Kidney’s London Irish side in the first game to take place on the province’s new 3G modified pitch at their Cork home ground.
While new signings Tadhg Beirne and Joey Carbery and their fellow internationals will be out of action
Van Graan said pre-season had been spent “looking to redefine our processes and our game this summer”
“The academy squad as a whole, we looked at that and we want to focus on quality and everyone who has trained with us have really impressed me,” he added.
“Obviously, some of them are a bit down the line and still very green in terms of their development, but the more they can train with us and the more we are aligned with them, hopefully the better players we can get through on the other side.”
Munster is part of that and we’re working towards that so we have a small pool of players that have trained for the seven weeks and we’re only going to focus on them for the warm-up games. We do want to try a few things with individuals.
“Going into the Cheetahs, one or two guys might drop into the team as the internationals that only returned two weeks ago, will only start joining us in week two, three, four, five and so forth.
“It’s also a World Cup year, so player management from Ireland will be pretty important. All credit to Joe [Schmidt] and David [Nucifora] and all of the Irish staff, we’ve been through all of that. Obviously Ireland’s important and Munster’s important too, so that communication has been brilliant.”
After six weeks of pre-season training, the Munster squad commence preparations today for their first game of the season with the Kearys Renault Series 2018 kicking off against London Irish in Irish Independent Park on Friday night (7.30pm).
See full details of that clash and purchase tickets here.
Ahead of the first encounter of the season, below is an update on the player rehabilitation front.
After sustaining a shoulder injury against Scarlets in March, Tommy O’Donnell has made a full recovery and has been training with the squad for the last number of weeks.
Jean Kleyn, who ended last season with a routine ankle procedure, has also returned to full training.
Stephen Archer, who sustained a pec injury against Edinburgh in early May, is advancing with his rehabilitation and is expected to make a return in the opening stage of the new campaign.
Sammy Arnold (knee) and Niall Scannell (shoulder) required respective minor knee and shoulder procedures during the off-season and are progressing well with their return to play rehabilitation.
Chris Cloete (groin), Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) and Conor Oliver (toe) are all being managed by the medical department, with Oliver undergoing surgery earlier this week after sustaining a foot injury during a gym session.
Those continuing to rehab longer-term injuries include Chris Farrell (knee), Liam O’Connor (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), and Ronan O’Mahony (ankle).
“We’ve still got quite a few. Tyler (Bleyendaal, neck) is still rehabbing and we’ll give him as much time as possible. Jack O’Donoghue is still rehabbing with a knee (injury), Chris Farrell is still rehabbing with a knee, Liam O’Connor is still rehabbing his knee.
Chris Cloete picked up a groin injury, he’s fully recovered from his arm but he will still be out for quite a bit of time. Conor Oliver dropped a weight on his foot, he’s had surgery so he will be out for 14 weeks.
“Other guys who have had surgery, Jean Kleyn (ankle) is back into training, Rhys Marshall is back into training, Niall Scannell (shoulder) is still busy with his recovery. Stephen Archer, after his (pectoral muscle) operation, he’s still in recovery… So, I might have missed one or two there, but still, a big chunk of guys having to rehab and we’ll see gradually filtering back in over the next few weeks.”
After falling short in two semi-finals last year, Munster get their 2018/19 campaign underway against the Cheetahs at Thomond Park, and after a long pre-season period at their high performance base in UL, van Graan says excitement is building.
“One of the key things for us is to improve our away form this year, we were very good at home but not necessarily good away from home,” the South African continued.
“It’s one of the things that we want to improve on. The Cheetahs are a quality team, we’re going to start with them fresh. They’ve started in the Currie Cup already against the Blue Bulls. So they’ll be ready once they come here in three weeks to Thomond Park. You know my feeling, we just take it one at a time.
“Every team is still very excited, nobody has played a game yet, everybody’s got their plans. For us it’s about excellence and to continue that every single day. Every team can have a good week, we’re looking to have 32-43 very good weeks to hopefully put us in a position to play in the playoffs at the end of the season.
“That’s all you can focus on now and the season will take care of itself.”
2018 Kearys Renault Series Fixtures
Friday, August 17
Munster v London Irish, Irish Independent Park, 7.30pm;
Friday, August 24
Munster v Exeter Chiefs, Irish Independent Park, 7.30pm;
Buy tickets online here, from the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices in Irish Independent Park and Thomond Park, or by calling 061 421103.
2 Match Packs
Adult: €;25 (admission to both games)
Junior: €;8 (admission to both games)
Family – 2 adults and 2 juniors: €;50 (admission to both games)
Individual Game Tickets
Family – 2 adults and 2 juniors: €;30