Coach Tony McGahan had no problem explaining his side’s willingness to see off the challenges of Cardiff and Leinster, nor why they relish the opportunity to enhance an unbeaten run with victory over Glasgow.
Four straight defeats against the Blues and three out of four losses against Leinster had them adequately motivated for those wins, while last season’s clashes with Glasgow saw them lose one and draw the other.
“It should be easy for the guys to get up for this one,” noted McGahan yesterday as he announced six changes from the 22 players on duty at the RDS on Sunday.
Following an impressive return from injury for Munster A last week, Anthony Horgan comes into the squad for Ian Dowling, while Kieran Lewis will get a rare run instead of Lifeimi Mafi.
McGahan made four more changes in the pack, with Denis Fogarty promoted for Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley back for Federico Puciariello, Mick O’Driscoll replacing Donncha Ryan and Neil Ronan in for John O’Sullivan.
McGahan’s selection policy has hardly raised an eyebrow since he took over; players and public seem unfazed with the number of changes from match to match.
He explained: “We analysed both the senior and A games against Leinster last week; there were some really good performances in the A match and a few of the players have deservedly gone up for this weekend.”
He has no worries about any of them slotting in comfortably, and in particular he mentioned Horgan, who scored two tries last week.
The Cork Con man, he pointed out, had hit the ground running at the start of the season and had shone against the USA and London Irish in pre-season games before sustaining a leg injury.
Horgan is currently on a short-term contract that brings him up to the end of December; he will be anxious to do enough to secure an extension of that. So far, things look good for one of the veterans of the squad, particularly if he can remain injury free in the coming weeks.
McGahan said his side has been focusing only on the immediate task at hand so far this term.
“Our thought process this year has been ‘last game, next game’, so as soon as we’re finished with one, we start to focus on the next one. I think we’ve done that well so far. It has been policy to give everyone the opportunity to put their hands up; barring those who are injured, I think we have pretty much covered everyone in the squad so far,” he said.
He’s banking on fresh faces to bring something new to the team: “The guys coming in will be hugely enthusiastic because they will see this as an opportunity. Those selected have been told why they have been selected, those who haven’t, have been told whether they are being rested or dropped; it’s important that we’re frank about all of this.”
McGahan is determined to keep the focus on Saturday rather than jump ahead to a Heineken Cup opener against Montauban.
“We’re all aware of the danger of thinking too far ahead; we’re sticking to the policy of not looking beyond the next game and Glasgow is the next game. The players are in no doubt of where they stand and of what’s important as we prepare for Glasgow.
“We have a pretty experienced core of level-headed, down-to-earth players who, I’m confident, won’t allow any complacency to creep in,” he said.
McGahan has just one match to complete his assessment of the squad before the Heineken Cup and already has decided on seven bankers to start against Montauban. “There are some genuine considerations for the other 14 spots in the squad of 22. There might be more guys guaranteed a place in the 22 but what positions they start or finish in might be an issue for me to look at. Certainly, the way individuals and the various teams have performed so far make the issues around selection very interesting.”
MUNSTER (from): K Earls, D Howlett, B Murphy, R Tipoki, K Lewis, A Horgan, R O’Gara, P Warwick, T O’Leary, P Stringer, M Horan, F Sheahan, D Fogarty, J Hayes, T Buckley, M O’Driscoll, P O’Connell (capt), D O’Callaghan, A Quinlan, J Melck, D Wallace, N Ronan.