At a time when Conor Murray is establishing himself as one of the world’s leading scrum-halves, it must be a little frustrating for the likes of Duncan Williams and Cathal Sheridan, his understudies at Munster, to see exactly what the future might hold.
And that is why, after the mid-term break all the provinces have enjoyed, players are aching to show what they are capable of before the international stars return.
With the big names away, the lesser lights get their chance, and that’s just the way Sligo native Sheridan views tomorrow night’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
“It was nice to get a break to make sure the body was in good stead, but you can’t go off and lose the run of yourself,” said Sheridan. “We have a big block coming up, two tough games, the Dragons this week, Ulster the following week, and that’s leading into two big European games.”
Sheridan’s swift passing game and speed to the breakdown has been hampered by injury this season. When Murray was available, head coach Anthony Foley wouldn’t think of looking beyond the Lion. While he himself was away, Williams stepped up, increasing the friendly rivalry.
“It’s different for the lads who have had a good block of games, their bodies might be feeling a bit battered. But, the likes of me who’ve been having niggles and things like that, you just want to get back into it,” he stressed.
“No one is ever going to say no to a week off, but you can see it as a way of getting a head start, get a bit of extra training done that will stand to you in the following weeks. I feel a lot more confident now. It’s nice when you can settle yourself into a game, to get into the flow of a game, a bit of rhythm and hopefully get your hands on the ball a bit more and maybe do something with it.
“I’ve played at the Dragons before. It’s probably one of the hardest grounds to go to and get a win. They fight for every little inch, which is a great trait in a team. It’s probably not going to be one of those games won on skill, more a game that will be won on an extra bit of doggedness.”
Sheridan, however, believes the current mindset in the squad means they will be well up for the challenge. “We feel much stronger as a squad,” he stated. “Out there today with the internationals away, there were lads hitting the heads off each other, trying to get places for the weekend. If you get the chance, you have to be ready. You might not get another for a couple of weeks, maybe months, even a year depending how things work out.
“On the flip side, it gives you great confidence when you see how the lads went up for the internationals and showed they weren’t there to make up the numbers but to be key members of the Irish squad. It gives great belief to the squad down here.
“And it’s always a nice little bonus to have three UL/Bohemian clubmates on the team... a proud day for the club when anything like that happens, Killer (Dave Kilcoyne) with the try, Tommy (O’Donnell) had a great performance and Dave (Foley) getting man of the match.”
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