Munster coach Anthony Foley itching for real action to start
MUNSTER head coach Anthony Foley has declared his impatience for the end to shadow boxing as his side complete their pre-season preparations against London Irish in what is expected to be a close to capacity Waterford RSC this evening (7.30).
After a heavy defeat to Gloucester last weekend, Munster will hope to be closer to being race-ready as they renew acquaintances with Heineken Cup-winning hero Tomas O'Leary, one of a sprinkling of Irish names in former Ireland out-half Brian Smith's Premiership outfit.
"I can't wait for Friday week," declared Foley, who eases a few more of his first-team choices back into action this evening at the Waterford ground, where Ireland's World Cup heroine Niamh Briggs will be introduced to the crowd at half-time.
"It can't come quick enough to be honest with you. I know we had a bad result last weekend but when you go through the game and you take the scoreline out of it, we learned a lot about some of our very young second rows.
"We also learned a lot about some of our very young backs, who had very little experience to go over to Kingsholm and face the side they had to face and hold their ground for as long as they did.
"They came out of it with a lot of credit and what we'll do for them is we'll make sure that we'll put a plan in place for them that they can cope with things on a more regular basis.
"I knew they left everything out on the pitch. When they scored a try that went the length of the pitch in the last play of the game, you know that fellas are still trying.
"And when you see the last-ditch tackles going in in the corner, even though you're 30 points down and fellas are still scrambling to turn them over, that's encouraging at least.
"Look I just said to them, 'I can't fault your attitude or your work rate, but accuracy let us down and our inability to keep the ball killed us.'
"When you come out of a game away from home and you've 29 per cent possession in the game, you're not going to be close and we weren't close.
"What we focused on all week is possession and getting the ball, and when we get it we keep it.
"Our use of ball was poor. I don't think we played the game in the right areas of the pitch.
"We're looking to address that. We're looking to maintain a lot of the things that we were good at last year.
"We want to remain stingy in defence and we want a forward pack that is generating winners' ball.
"We're quite excited where the depth is but what we need now is to get all our players who would have been marked down as potential up to a level of their players and they are not being looked at under this inverted commas 'potential'".
Munster already named a much-changed side on Wednesday while London Irish last night unveiled their selection with Irish players Conor Gilsenan and O'Leary starting.
Matt Parr, David Paice and Halani Aulika start in the front row with Jebb Sinclair and Nic Rouse in the second row, while Kieran Low joins Gilsenan and new capture Luke Narraway in the line-up.
O'Leary, a Munster Heineken Cup champion in 2008, will start at scrum-half alongside Myles Dorrian. Guy Armitage and Tom Fowlie are in the centre with Alex Lewington, Will Harries and Tom Homer in the back three.
Welsh Rugby Truce
Welsh rugby has finally reached a new Participation Agreement as the Union and the four regions have agreed a deal worth £60m, which will run until 2020.
The agreement brings to an end a bitter dispute which has been running for the last two years and it means that a minimum of six home-based internationals will be on dual WRU-regions contracts. Each of the regions - Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - will be entitled to just six non-Welsh-qualified players.
It is expected that Welsh players playing abroad will be overlooked in favour of home-based players when it comes to selection for the national side while Warren Gatland will also decide what players will be offered dual deals.