Peter Stringer returns to competitive action with Munster this weekend rejuvenated by his six-month sojourn in England last season and looking forward to staking his claim to more game time in a red jersey.
After impressive turns off the bench during pre-season, 34-year-old Stringer will vie with Duncan Williams for the starting scrum-half position when Munster begin their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday (8pm).
With a one-year extension to his contract announced last March, Stringer was never too far from Munster’s planning, but a few months earlier the 98-times capped Ireland scrum-half had found himself third in the pecking order of No 9s in Tony McGahan’s thinking, behind Tomás O’Leary and Conor Murray.
With limited opportunities, Stringer, 34, jumped at the chance of a loan move to Saracens, with whom he enjoyed a successful three-month spell in both the Premiership and Heineken Cup. When that ended, the Corkman was quickly snapped up for a further three months by Newcastle Falcons, where his desire for first-team action was also satisfied.
“I was gone six months and personally it was all about game time for me, really,” Stringer said.
“It was the opportunity of playing somewhere else, which is something I haven’t really had over the years, but first and foremost it was about getting some time on the pitch and getting a run.
“Thankfully I played most weeks over there and as a rugby player I still have ambitions to play the game and love the game and that was what it was all about. I thoroughly enjoyed my time over there.
“Saracens had two injuries in the scrum-half position and three months was the term they were out injured. That was enough for me to get some game time and then Newcastle came looking and again it was just about getting more game time. So I took the decision to go up there and thankfully I played five or six games up there, the full 80 minutes, and again I enjoyed my time up there.”
Now Stringer is looking for more of the same in his native province.
“I must say it’s good to be back,” he said. “This is home and I wanted to give it another go here. I suppose you get confidence playing week in, week out and the realisation that you can still play the game at the highest level.
“I still have ambitions and goals to play at the highest level back here and now this is the place where I want to be.
“I suppose I took the decision [to go out on loan] when I wasn’t getting game time last year here, it was just about playing and I still feel the same way. I just want to be playing wherever that may be and at the highest level.
“It would have been an easy decision to stay here last year, tag along and not be playing but I still just want to play the game. I feel good about my rugby this year and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
“I’m coming back and it’s my concern to play as well as I can. That’s always the attitude I’ve taken in to matches, regardless of who’s coaching, and if I’m getting decent time on the pitch and playing well then it’s up to me. I see each season as a fresh start no matter where you are or what position you’re in. There’s a long break in the summer, players come back rejuvenated and with a clean slate. There’s good guys here now, a good squad ethos and players are looking for starting positions and that’s what it’s all about.”
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