With 15 players away with the Ireland team as World Cup preparations intensify, Munster front row forward Stephen Archer says there is a great opportunity for the province’s young stars to stand up and be counted.
Should Joe Schmidt’s charges reach the latter stages of the World Cup in Japan, it would mean the internationals would miss the first six rounds of PRO14 action.
For Archer, who himself has two Ireland caps, this means the pressure is on those at home to make sure they get the season off to a good start without their star players.
However, it gives some of the emerging talent ample opportunity to show the coaching staff that they can make the step up to PRO14 level.
“There’s a lot of young players who have never played for Munster before and it’s a great opportunity for them,” Archer said.
Despite having their most recognisable names in Japan, Archer insists Munster will be ready when they start the season against the Dragons at Thomond Park on September 28. With the departures of Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones from the coaching ticket, Archer says players are looking forward to getting stuck in with the new support staff to Johann van Graan.
“We’ve had an extended pre-season this year, it’s been a long few weeks but it has been enjoyable. Stephen Larkham is arriving next week so there is a bit of excitement there working with him and we’re looking forward to getting the season going.”
Archer was speaking at the launch of the Munster Senior Challenge Cup, where the champions of the last two years will face off, as Cork Con were drawn against Garryowen in a mouthwatering quarter-final tie.
Con, who have won the cup in six of the previous seven years, have home advantage against the Limerick men in the quarter-final tie. The battle of the last two champions of the cup is provisionally down for September 21.
The draw was conducted by Munster duo Stephen Archer and James Cronin as well as former Olympian Rob Heffernan, who is sponsor Bank of Ireland’s ambassador for the competition.
UCC face an intriguing all-Cork clash with Highfield in their quarter-final.
Munster Senior Challenge Cup draw - Rd 1: A. Midleton vs UL Bohemians; B. Bruff v Sunday’s Well; C. Nenagh Ormond vs Cashel; D. Dolphin vs Clonmel;
Rd 2: E. Old Crescent v Winner match C; F. Winner match A v Winner match B; G. Winner match D v Shannon.
Rd 3: Winner match F v Winner match E; UCC v Highfield; Cork Con vs Garryowen; Winner of match G vs Shannon.