Foley back to beef up Munster’s League challenge

MUNSTER captain Anthony Foley is back at the helm for tonight’s Magners League encounter with Glasgow at Hughenden, 7.30pm.

Foley is eagerly awaiting his return after a “frustrating” spell of 17 weeks without a game. It’s Foley’s first match since leading Munster to Heineken Cup glory last May, even though he has been immersed in training camps with Ireland.

“I can’t say that I’ve had too much rugby,” said Foley yesterday. “If anything, it has been a little frustrating — it’s probably the longest period of under-exposure I have had since I started in senior rugby back in 1992.”

But Foley is looking forward to the challenge tonight, citing valid reasons why Munster can turn the tables on Glasgow, who won both matches of the league campaign last season.

“I have been very impressed by the youngsters that have been brought in this season. I thought they battled well in the opening league game against Cardiff. They conceded two sloppy tries and lost the game, but they were down two men at the time.

“Last week was better from the result point of view; it wasn’t a great game, but they dug deep and secured a very important victory,” he said.

Foley believes Munster have found good quality players from within to strengthen the forward base. He has been particularly taken by the performances of props Darragh Hurley and Tim Ryan and number eight James Coughlan. “They have all done very well; it’s a nice situation to be in when you can say that youngsters have held their own against quality opposition. With exposure, these guys will only get better,” suggested Foley.

Munster will be significantly strengthened by Foley’s return, particularly when allied to the availability of fellow internationals Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan and Anthony Horgan.

Quinlan has been left on the bench as John O’Sullivan and Tim McGann (the recent signing from Australia) get another opportunity to line out in the same back row.

Ian Dowling returns on the wing instead of Tom Gleeson, Horgan comes in for Mossie Lawlor, O’Driscoll for Donncha Ryan and Foley for Coughlan, who drops out of the squad this week.

Christian Cullen is still nursing a leg injury but could well have played but for the fact that Kidney has two other overseas players in the squad. He had to pick Jeremy Manning in the absence of Ronan O’Gara and was anxious to give newcomer McGann another run at open side flanker.

That burden will ease for Kidney when Cullen becomes naturalised in November.

MUNSTER: S. Payne, I. Dowling, J. Kelly, J. Downey, A. Horgan, J. Manning, T. O’Leary, D. Hurley, F. Sheahan, F. Pucciariello, C. Wyatt, M. O’Driscoll, J. O’Sullivan, A. Foley (captain), T. McGann.

Replacements. T. Ryan, A. Kyriacou, A. Quinlan, D. Ryan, B. O’Meara, E. Hickey, M. Lawlor.

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