It was the numbers beyond the 45-5 scoreline which truly showed how productive Munster’s pre-season win over London Irish was.
Thirty-two players were used, including eight academy players, six debutants, and all with the likes of Billy Holland, Rhys Marshall, and AlbyMathewson held left in reserve for down the line.
Friday was a night to cherish for the debutants, with London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney noting of his former club: “The future’s bright with those lads coming through”.
Even at only 20 years of age, it was a somewhat belated debut for Jack O’Sullivan, who was out for 10 months last season with an ACL tear.
His first touch sprinkled a little gold dust on what was otherwise a routine occasion, selling a dummy before a 40-yard sprint to cap an outrageous try. He also had a key role in setting up tries for Mike Haley and JJ Hanrahan, producing the decisive break before playing scrum-half for Hanrahan’s score.
“It was a shame that he got injured last season with that ACL,” said head coach Johann van Graan, who had included him in the extended squad for last April’s trip to Treviso.
“Hopefully he’s got a big year [ahead]. He’s got lovely feet, very good hands, and he’s a different type of loose forward that we’ve got in the club.
Debutant prop Keynan Knox and flanker John Hodnett were also praised for “very good” first-half showings, with Van Graan emphasising the importance keen to promote squad depth, as academy players continue to train with the first team.
“We used something like 57 players last year in the PRO14 and this year it’ll be even more if you just look at the World Cup players. When they come back, they’ve got to rest as well. So, you have to have depth and you’ve got to back your young players.”
It was a first outing for new senior coach Stephen Larkham as well.
“The first part of pre-season we spent a lot [of time] on conditioning. The second part, a lot on our defence and our set-piece. Steve only joined us three weeks ago and we’ve spent quite a bit of time on our attack,” said Van Graan.
“[I’m] pretty happy with those different areas. It’s only the first game of a long season, but certainly boxes ticked.”
Maul defence and fitness were highlighted as further boxes ticked, although Calvin Nash was sustained withdrawn with an injury late on; “hopefully not too serious” the early assessment.
Out-of-contract duo Paddy Butler and Peter McCabe made cameo returns to the Munster jersey as they train with their home province for pre-season.
“You never know,” said Van Graan of their prospects of landing a Munster contract.
“They’ve only come in for the last two weeks.
“We’ll review the game and they’ll keep training with us and whenever we need to make a decision, we’ll make one either way. But [it’s] great to have them in and their attitude has been fantastic. Both Munster men and I’ve been very impressed by them.”