Tuesday 25 April 2017

Stringer eager to make No 9 shirt his own again after wilderness years

Ian Bransfield

First-choice for province and country for the best part of a decade, it comes as little surprise to hear Peter Stringer talk about the frustration he has endured in recent seasons.

Ousted by Eoin Reddan during the latter stages of Ireland's failed World Cup bid in 2007, it wasn't long before he was displaced by Tomas O'Leary as Munster's leading No 9.

Uncertainty and insecurity have both dogged him as he re-set his goals and attuned his mind to the role of back-up scrum-half.

This season has been different, however. Injury to O'Leary in early October offered Stringer a new beginning of sorts and he grasped the opportunity with both hands, impressing in back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures and forcing his way back into Declan Kidney's plans for the Autumn Internationals.

His resurgence has been such that he is now on the verge of making the Munster No 9 jersey his own once again.

A fit-again O'Leary was preferred for both of last month's Heineken Cup fixtures against the Ospreys, but Stringer has impressed over the festive period and he admits that he will be devastated if he is left out over the coming weeks.

Gutted

"You're gutted whenever a team sheet is named and you're not on it," he said. "Every player plays this game in the hope that they are going to get selected for the starting XV. Anyone who isn't gutted shouldn't be involved.

"That's why everyone looks for a contract. If you're there to make up the numbers, then the squad isn't going to go anywhere. But everyone here is driven.

"That's the only way it can be in a set-up like this and I'm delighted at the moment."

Stringer signed a new two-year extension to his contract at the end of last season and his contentment is a far cry from the dissatisfaction he felt during the early days of his fall down the pecking order.

"At the start it affected me quite a lot," he said. "I found it quite difficult at times to fit into that type of set-up.

"But you realise then that it happens to players every week and you're not the only one it happens to. You don't come to terms with it but you deal with it as best you can.

"You cope by realising that every opportunity you get -- no matter how many minutes you get on the pitch -- can be the difference between sitting on the bench or starting.

"I've always gone into games, whether I'm starting or on the bench, with the attitude that every minute counts and you have to make a difference when you're on the pitch.

"That's the mindset that I try to take into a game."

And that is the approach he will take when Munster play Glasgow at Musgrave Park tomorrow night.

Tony McGahan will name his starting XV at lunchtime today but the indications are that Stringer will start at scrum-half for the third match in a row, giving him every opportunity to stake his claim ahead of next weekend's Heineken Cup visit to the Stade Mayol to play Toulon.

"I'm looking at this weekend as an opportunity to stake claim for a place," he said. "I've always said that I just want to be playing games and so it's roll on Saturday at this stage."

Irish Independent

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