Ronan back in seventh heaven

After seven months of breaking the pain barrier to rescue his career, Niall Ronan is delighted to be back in action for Munster. Surgery and a long rehab programme may have helped mend cruciate ligament damage but it also put Ronan’s resolve to the test.

However, two games into his return and he no longer feels a sense of isolation.

Ronan first got 50 minutes’ game time for Munster A before making his RaboDirect return in the bonus-point victory over Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend. The good news is that he is feeling no ill effects from the experience and his confidence is growing after successfully negotiating 70 minutes of the 80.

“It has been seven months of a hard slog but I’m just delighted to be back,” he said. “Playing 70 minutes was great. I wasn’t supposed to play for that long.

“My knee gets stiff from time to time but it is working well enough, and just to get back playing with the lads is a great feeling. Training Monday to Friday and not playing the games is not nice.

“I played the week before with the A team which was a good little tester, and I did a bit of contact. Because of that, I didn’t really think about my knee last weekend. After the first carry and hit, it felt great.”

Before the game, his biggest concern was match fitness.

“You never train as you play, the first 20 minutes I was struggling, I have to admit that, but the more I got through the game and got my second wind I felt a bit better.”

Still, Ronan capped a very decent display by scoring one of Munster’s four tries and that was clearly satisfying.

“It was a bit of a bonus to fall over for a try. It was nice to get the try but the most important thing was to get the win,” he added.

Munster’s new signing Sean Dougall played six games on the trot for the province and clearly laid down a marker to prove he will be seriously challenging for the No 7 shirt. But Ronan isn’t unduly concerned about competition for places because he believes it comes with the territory.

“There is competition in all positions, mine included, and you just got to take your chance if it comes around. Hopefully I did that at the weekend and if I get another chance I’ll have to take it again.”

The flanker still has bad memories of last season’s Rabo semi-final defeat by eventual winners the Ospreys and Munster pay a return visit to the Liberty Stadium tomorrow.

“Obviously we have bad memories of that game. Beaten by 40-odd points, it was embarrassing, but Ospreys are a good side and it’s always difficult to go over there and win.

“They got their first win last weekend so they will be waiting for us. Still, even though we know it will be a tough battle, we’re looking forward to the game.”

He believes the Welsh side might even be in for a shock based on the new style of play adapted by Munster under new coach Rob Penney.

“It is a different style,” he said, “we’re playing a lot more running rugby. We were in contact a lot last year but now it is very enjoyable to play.

“We play with a lot of width and have options all over the park, so everyone is enjoying it.”

Meanwhile, Denis Hurley returns to action after recovering from tonsillitis, while Conor Murray makes his first start of the season after coming off the bench against Ulster and Dragons. Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony are included in a match day squad for the first time this season.

MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett (Capt), K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo, R O’Gara, C Murray; W Du Preez, M Sherry, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, B Holland, T O’Donnell, N Ronan, P Butler.

Replacements: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, D Ryan, P O’Mahony, P Stringer, I Keatley, J Downey.

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