"The professionals aren’t expected to do it, yet the amateurs are. It just doesn’t add up."
Young Munster go into Division 1A with a replenished player stock, having recruited promising youngsters like Calvin Nash and Tipperary minor dual-star Alan Tynan while Munster's scrapped training base in Cork has brought Dan Walsh and Cian Bohane up to Tom Clifford Park.
With notable arrivals come notable departures however, namely Ireland U20 tighthead Ben Betts and centre Gearoid Lyons, who depart for Leicester Tigers and Nottingham respectively.
These are big blows for the Limerick side and they are marred further by Ben Kilkenny, nephew of Keith Wood, who is sidelined with a neck injury. The Munster ‘A’ backrow will not feature until the New Year.
The Cookies fought hard until the play-offs over the last two seasons. It is assistant coach Ger Slattery’s hope that they can go one better and emulate the class of 1993.
Coaches: Gearoid Prendergast, Ger Slattery, Ian Keatley.
Captain: Sean Duggan
Last year’s finish: 3rd.
Last title: 1993.
First four fixtures: Old Belvedere (H), Cork Constitution (A) Clontarf (H) Dublin University (A)
Players In: Cian Bohane (Dolphin), Dan Walsh (Cork Constitution), Colm Skehan (Thurles), Jack Lyons (Crescent Comprehensive), Calvin Nash (Crescent Comprehensive), Fineen Wychereley (Cistercian College Roscrea), Gavin Coombes (Bandon Grammar) Alan Tynan (Cistercian College Roscrea) Shane Airey (Shannon) Tom McHale (Cashel) Luke O’Halloran (Shannon)
Players Out: Ben Betts (Leicester Tigers), Diarmuid Dee (Watsonian RFC), Gearoid Lyons (Nottingham), Aaron McCloskey (Garryowen), Shane Fenton (Lansdowne), Darren Gallagher (Lansdowne).
One to watch
“Calvin Nash is coming out of school with a big reputation.” Slattery, who has four caps for Munster, said. “People are expecting big things. He’s one of the guys that will probably come straight into the side but he’s a level-headed young guy and he works hard."
Hopes and expectation
“Going into any season, you’re looking to win it but we’re under no illusions. Division 1A is a very competitive league and each team is capable of winning it,” Ger Slattery explained.
“I know it’s an old cliché but we have to take every game as it comes. We’ll focus on the first block of four games and see from there.”
Biggest obstacle this season
“There are some big losses there. Dan Goggin is playing a bit more with Munster so we’ll be without him.
“It’s the same as any squad; our obstacle will be keeping people fit. When you do have injuries it’s about still being in the habit of winning which is hard, especially on the road.
Look, we made semi-finals two years in a row so there’s no reason why we can’t do it this year.”
A word on the club scene
“The big thing for Division 1A was bringing back the play-offs. They revamped the league and it made it more competitive as nearly every team was fighting for something.
“The one thing I would worry about is only having five replacements allowed. I can’t understand it. You’re only going to have two front rows which doesn’t make sense because that can lead to uncontested scrums.
"Some clubs struggle to make up numbers, but in Division 1A there should be seven on the bench. It just makes sense to have a full front row and four others on the bench.
“We’re asking amateur players to cover both sides of the scrum which is getting harder and harder to do in the modern game. The professionals aren’t expected to do it, yet the amateurs are. It just doesn’t add up.
“You might have a tighthead that’s a lot better than the utility prop but you can’t pick him because he can’t cover both sides [of the scrum]. It’s restricting clubs. If they made a loosehead, tighthead and hooker compulsory on the bench then it would sort a lot of problems in the club game.”
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