JOHN HAYES and Alan Quinlan are both included in a 25-strong squad from which the Munster team to take on Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park on Friday (7.05, Setanta Sports) will be finalised tomorrow.
Hayes is the first of Munster’s Lions contingent to be pressed into action, while Quinlan’s 12-week suspension ends today. Manager Shaun Payne last night declined to say whether either or both would start but it is perfectly clear the camp is smarting after the bitterly disappointing performance against Glasgow Warriors last Friday.
Accordingly, changes can be expected and it could be that even the long established Marcus Horan and Tony Buckley could be under pressure.
Payne accepted that Munster’s set piece against the Scots was far from satisfactory while discipline is another area being closely examined in the build-up to the visit of the Blues, who also failed to impress in an opening round defeat by Edinburgh.
“We have to hold our hands up, it was a poor performance in Glasgow”, admitted a clearly frustrated Payne. “The pre-season games may have been slightly misleading for us. There’s not the same pressure as you would meet in competitive matches. Our set piece wasn’t as good as we thought – our attack carried us through those earlier games and we scored some great tries – and our kick-chase was poor as well.
“We are still very disappointed at the way the game went. We were below standard. We always seem to struggle against Glasgow, especially away from home. It doesn’t take a wizard to work it out that the scrum wasn’t good for us at all. There’s plenty of work going into that this week. We were meant to be ready and there is no excuse. And you’re going into unsteady ground if you blame a bad performance on the referee. That’s too easy a thing to do”.
Understandably, Munster were more than a little taken aback to have their half-backs Jeremy Manning and Peter Stringer both yellow carded but again Payne accepted that the team’s discipline was simply not acceptable.
“Their penalties came because we were under pressure”, he agreed. “We always seem to come back to the question of discipline”.
The Munster squad as a whole is clearly delighted at Quinlan’s return to the fray. As Shaun Payne pointed out: “I can’t think of anyone who wanted a Lions trip more than Alan and so for him it was a crushing blow. He’s been training away, having a great time, and is really looking forward to getting back on the pitch and putting in a few big performances.”
However, Payne refused to say whether Hayes or Quinlan would begin on Friday except to state that “both have massive experience and have been integral parts of the team. I’ll leave it at that rather than saying whether they’re going to start, whether they’re going to be on the bench or in the 22”.
Munster badly need a much improved performance in front of their home fans, but Cardiff are very much in the same boat after losing to Edinburgh. Forward coach Lawrie Fisher will certainly expect to see the pack do a whole better although Payne insisted it wasn’t all doom and gloom at Firhill, stressing that “a number of young fellows are coming through. It is good for Felix Jones to get a few games under his belt for he is a real talent. Julian Brugnaut is settling in very nicely and seems to be improving every week although he is struggling with the language and he’s having two lessons a week to help there.”
Payne revealed that Paul Warwick could be out of action for up to three weeks because of a damaged tendon at the base of the foot, so Jeremy Manning will likely again wear the number ten jersey although Scott Deasy could also enter the equation.
The manager also stressed that Springbok centre Jean De Villiers will be joining the squad next week.
MUNSTER SQUAD: D Barnes, F Jones, S Deasy, D Hurley, D Howlett, B Murphy, T Gleeson, L Mafi, J Manning, T Morland, P Stringer, M Horan, T Buckley, J Brugnaut, J Hayes, D Fogarty, D Varley, M O’Driscoll, D Ryan, A Quinlan, B Holland, T O’Donnell, N Ronan, D Leamy, J Coughlan.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved