MUNSTER ARE PLACING their trust in a host of relatively fresh faces this season but will be hoping that stalwarts such as Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan will be able to impart ‘The Munster Way’ on the next generation.
Those hopes have been stalled somewhat by news that their captain, O’Connell, may not be fully fit in time for the start of the RaboDirect Pro 12 season opener on 1 September.
Speaking at the launch of Munster’s new adidas alternative kit, which may feature in the opening clash away to Edinburgh, O’Connel revealed that he is not where he wants to be regarding his fitness.
The second-row was quoted in the Irish Times, earlier in the week, with an admission that he would probably not be ready to play the opening games of the Pro 12 season.
O’Connell says his recovery from the knee injury that curtailed his season ‘has been a bit slower than I would have liked’. He commented:
(The knee) is getting stronger all the time. I’ve been back doing a bit of running. Not back fully with all the boys but I’m nearly there.
Scrum-half Conor Murray says Munster have set their sights on surpassing their quarter-final exit in the Heineken Cup last season.
“The quarter-final is not where we want to be,” he said, “we want to win competitions. Munster is a team that, over the years, sets out to win every competition they enter.”
Keith Earls is just a week into his pre-season. He was afforded extra time to recover from a 2011/12 season that only ended on June 23 with Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand.
The winger has been getting acquainted with a couple of new Kiwi faces this summer – head and backs coach Rob Penney and Simon Mannix.
There’s a lot of new faces and young lads coming through, and a lot of retirements too so the squad looks completely different. It has been going smoothly so far.
O’Connell said, “(Rob) comes in with different ideas of how he wants to play. That will take a bit of getting used to and a bit of work. He seems to be a really enthusiastic, positive coach and the lads have really enjoyed it.”
“A lot of the new lads coming through are excellent,” he added. “We’ve recruited quite well and have some lovely players coming in. It is an exciting time.”