Kyriacou pleased with Grand Slam returnees and squad depth ahead of URC run-in 

Graham Rowntree’s squad in the healthiest shape it has been in 2022-23.
Kyriacou pleased with Grand Slam returnees and squad depth ahead of URC run-in 

NEW DEPTH OF SQUAD: The Munster team huddle. Pic: ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

With a Grand Slam behind their returning Ireland contingent, and a well-managed run of three bonus-point wins during the Guinness Six Nations, Munster can head into the final push for a BKT URC home play-off draw with renewed confidence.

Just three games remain in the regular season with Glasgow due in Limerick this Saturday for the last home league match of the campaign and Graham Rowntree’s squad in the healthiest shape it has been in 2022-23.

RG Snyman has returned from long-term injury and Calvin Nash, Jack O’Donoghue, Paddy Patterson and Jack O’Sullivan likewise from their short-term issues in the last month.

Munster have this week welcomed back fit-again full-back Mike Haley and lock duo Thomas Ahern and Edwin Edogbo to the selection mix as they plot to leapfrog their Scottish visitors into the top four of the standings and occupy a home play-off berth ahead of their two-game finale on South African soil next month.

Add the Grand Slam bounce provided by the likes of Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Jack Crowley, Dave Kilcoyne, and Roman Salanoa and forwards coach Andi Kyriacou sees a lot to like about both the personnel available for selection and the work already completed around the games against Benetton, Ospreys and Scarlets over the last eight weeks while the championship was being played out.

“It’s been brilliant. We’re very fortunate in the URC that we do have those de-load weeks in this period – so the lads can get away if your game falls nicely, you could end up getting eight or nine days off with your family and some time there,” Kyriacou told the Irish Examiner.

 “Some lads will have bits to do away on their own but it gives them a chance for lads to recover, get their bodies right.

“There are nice little ebbs and flows there for them to recover and get better and that’s what we’re striving for.

“It’s a really nice time of the year to get some really tough work in, for guys in long-term rehab to get back on the field without the pressure of a game and they’re in a good spot. It’s brilliant to see how rusty they are three or four weeks out and for them to get that opportunity to train, rest and train again, keep pushing them, keep challenging their skill execution, their on-field knowledge which is there but is just a little bit slow because they’re just that little bit out of shape and not quite tuned into what we’re doing.

“And now look as we’re into these back end of the season games, they’ve put themselves in with a really good chance of performing and being selected.

“This is the beauty of it. We’ve not selected anything yet but we’ve got a massive pool of players there that are fit and ready to play. It’s credit to our medical, S&C team, nutrition team, and the work they’ve done, educating the guys, working with them and getting them back and not just back but stronger, that the (healed) injury is solid and they’re in a really good spot to push their claim forward.” 

As for the returning internationals, scrum-half Casey, who played in the first three bonus-point wins of Ireland’s march to the title, starting against Italy in Rome, believes his experience with Andy Farrell’s Irish squad, can drive him on to a successful end of season campaign back in a Munster jersey over the coming weeks.

“It does wonders for a player I think,” Casey, 23, said. “It’s probably my first major achievement in pro rugby. We won a Triple Crown last year but I didn’t really play in the Triple Crown games so I don’t really count it.

“To be involved in three games this year and to be involved in a squad that won a Grand Slam is a huge thing to be proud of but it definitely drives you on.

“I would have loved to have been involved in those last two games and I think it builds that hunger to come back and do our best to win two trophies here with Munster and push on now towards the World Cup with the Irish squad.” 

Of the returning contingent, Kyriacou added: “It’s always great to have them back in. I’m not sure what it’s like with the other Irish provinces but certainly with us, even when lads have had days off and have come back down, they’ve come in and sat in meetings around the building and they add value.

“It’s good to have them in, connected with what we’re doing and hopefully we’ll see the benefit of them being up in the environment with Faz and the guys up there. They always come back and add value when they’ve been away so excited about what’s to come.

“I think (the benefit), it’s twofold. There’s the positive vibe they’re coming from up the road with the national team but there’s also that push from those guys as well – ‘I’ve got to play well, I’ve got to consistently keep performing and getting better’.

“They’re constantly trying to put themselves in the eyeline of the Ireland coaches as well so anything we can do as a coaching group to help them get better, we’re pushing them hard when they come back because we want to see them up there playing for Ireland.

“So there’s definite positives there from both sides.”

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