Foley confident of Munster cup progress

MUNSTER A coach Anthony Foley hopes an early season home defeat to Llanelli doesn’t come back to haunt his side as they seek to wrap up a place in the semi-finals of the British and Irish Cup against Bristol at the Memorial Ground tonight (7.45pm).

Foley is well aware that Munster could now be in the comfort zone had they not managed to implode in Waterford back in October, but he is still confident enough that his side will qualify.

A measure of how seriously Bristol are taking this clash, however, can be gauged by the fact that coach Paul Hull kept his first-string side back from an English league clash with Rotherham Titans on Saturday and they have their best team on view against Munster.

“It’s obvious it is as important to them as it is to us,” said Foley, whose side are in pole position two points ahead of their Welsh rivals. Bristol, with a game in hand, are five points adrift.

Hull has made 11 changes to the side that faced against Rotherham Titans, as he sets his sights on moving to the knock out stages too.

He said: “This game will be our second game in four days, so it’s important that we continue to rotate the squad and keep everybody fresh. We’re determined to get back to winning ways and Munster A will be tough opposition.”

Although the elevation of a number of players to senior status with Munster denies Foley’s team of some experience, there is, he feels, more than enough in stock to do the job tonight.

“Guys like Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Tommy O’Donnell and Simon Zebo have moved up, but what we have is a collective ability to play the game at a pace we want to play it at,” he said.

“We’ve build up a bit of information on them (Bristol) and we have kept an eye on their progress through the league; they fielded an under-strength side Saturday so it’s clear they’re going all out to take us on.”

But Foley believes Munster will be ready too and will be heartened by the fact that Nottingham, whom Munster defeated away at Meadow Lane recently, came away with full points from Bristol earlier in the campaign.

That, and the fact that Munster have improved steadily game by game, should put them in with a right shout and Foley knows, in any event, that Munster’s destiny is in their own hands.

“We know that a victory will qualify us, so it’s up to ourselves.”

MUNSTER A: S Deasy (Cork Con); D Barnes (Dolphin), T Gleeson (Cork Con), T Smith (Midleton), S Scanlon (Cork Con); D Cusack (Garryowen), C Murray (Garryowen); D Kilcoyne (UL Bohs), D Casey (Shannon), P Borlase (Dolphin); B Holland (Cork Con, capt), D Foley (UL Bohs); D O'Callaghan (Dolphin), B O'Hara (UL Bohs), P Butler (Shannon).

Replacements: G Slattery (Young Munster), D Hurley (Cork Con), B Hayes (Cork Con), K Essex (UL Bohs), P Rowley (UL Bohs), C Hircock (Garryowen), R O'Mahoney (Garryowen).

BRISTOL: J Tovey; A Elliott, J Adams, J Fatialofa, G Watkins; E Barnes, R Bolt; M Irish, R Johnston, D Crompton, R Winters, D Barry, I Grieve, J Merriman, D Montagu.

Replacements: D Blaney, J Hobson, W Thompson, M Sambucetti, J Miller, S Alford, M Davies.

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