Coach happy as Munster A team face high quality test

Munster A couldn’t have faced a stiffer challenge than the champions in today’s B&I Cup opener with London Welsh at Towns Park, Midleton (2.30p.m.), but coach Peter Malone believes his young side will be up to the task.

Coach happy as Munster A team face high quality test

Malone insisted yesterday there is a huge amount of talent in the Munster squad and that this game represents an opportunity for several players to lay down a marker for provincial Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

The age profile is youthful but Malone can still call upon the vast experience of Irish international Tomás O’Leary, who lines out at scrum-half alongside new signing, Cork-born Steve Crosbie, who has signed a short-term contract.

Crosbie is a former Irish U20 with World Cup experience on his CV.

The game sees a return to action of talented second row John Madigan who joins Academy trio Vincent O’Brien, John Foley and Gavin Coombes in making his A debut.

Madigan has recovered from a series of injuries and he links up with Darren O’Shea in the engine room, while Peter McCabe and Rory Burke have been named in the front row alongside O’Brien.

Of the outside backs, Andrew Conway is the most experienced available to Malone, but there are others such as Cian Bohane, David Johnston and Alex Wootton with competitive mileage on the clock.

There are those who question the wisdom of participating in this B&I Cup but Malone isn’t one of them. He believes the competition is crucially important to the development of Munster’s fringe players.

“This gives us a very good level of competition for our players,” he said, emphasising the fact that a change of schedule means that the Irish clubs won’t suffer the series of fixture clashes they did in previous seasons.

Malone sees that as a win-win situation for the clubs and the Irish provinces.

“That the fixtures are not clashing with Ulster Bank Leagues is very important and it means that if players are available they can play Ulster Bank League games when required.

“This is a good stepping stone. The top end of those Championship teams, teams like London Welsh, London Irish, they’re professional teams and it is a good development path for our players.”

Opposition doesn’t come much tougher than the current champions, although they are not quite as strong as they were last year, and currently lie seventh in the English Championship, well off the pace being set by leaders London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie.

But Malone pointed out: “They lost some of their games by small margins, and they have a big physical pack.

"They base their game on the scrum and the maul; they have a pretty decent back row too and a bit of pace out wide.”

MUNSTER A:

C Hogan; A Conway, D Johnston, C Bohane (capt), A Wootton; S Crosbie, T O’Leary; P McCabe, V O’Brien, R Burke; J Madigan. D O’Shea; S O’Connor, J Foley, G Coombes

Replacements:

L O’Connor, P Kelleher, N Mulcahy, F Wycherley, A Griesel, C Nash, S McMahon

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