Munster prepare to enter 'unknown' in Sevens quest
Munster coach Colm McMahon has admitted his side have plenty of catching up to do as preparations continue for next week's World Club Sevens event in Limerick.
While they will have the backing of the home crowd at Thomond Park on Saturday and Sunday August 9 and 10, the Irish province will face a huge learning curve when going up against experiences operators in the shortened code.
The top tier of Irish rugby is playing catch-up in the Sevens world having largely opted out of competition in recent years and the team the hosts will field will be drawn from players whose primary focus is the 15-a-side game.
McMahon is, as yet, unable to reveal his full squad for the competition as the larger squad continue pre-season training and the strength and conditioning staff work with the medical team to identify those who can be made available.
South African flier Gerhard van den Heever and promising local star Ronan O'Mahony are expected to feature having attended yesterday's media briefing in the University of Limerick, and training for the competition is being worked into Munster's main sessions.
The hosts face a tough task in qualifying from their pool after being drawn against San Francisco, Moscow Saracens and Fijian side Daveta.
However, McMahon – a former Ireland Sevens international himself – is expecting his players to learn on their feet and perform.
"That's where we'll be under a bit of pressure," he admitted. "The game is pretty new to a lot of our guys whereas we'll be up against a lot of teams with an impressive background in the Sevens game. We've been tailoring it into Munster's senior sessions and have worked out a system where we get slots when we can take the Sevens guys to the side and do our stuff. It has worked out well so far."
While many might expect the panel to be drawn largely from Munster's back-three ranks, with Van den Heever and O'Mahony clear examples, McMahon insisted the need for speed had to be complemented by physical power up front.
And he said the combination of both will be vital to the province succeeding. "Speed and fitness are two key ingredients for a successful Sevens side and, in Gerhard van den Heever and Ronan O'Mahony, we have two guys who fit the bill ideally," he said.
"There are a few more like that in our provisional squad but we can't confirm who they are until we have clarity from the physios and the medical staff.
"It's guys with speed and the ability to change direction and pace very quickly that you want so you're looking at back-threes, wings and full-backs. But you do need a bit of strength because it can be quite physical when there is a collision or a breakdown.
"So we'll have a few big boys as well. In a way, it's a case of whatever takes your fancy.
"There are scrums and line-outs and you can use them for attacking purposes and sometimes there is competition for possession, but really it's a case of getting the ball back into play."
With a limited window in which to prepare and the serious business of pre-season going on around him, McMahon won't be burdening his squad with too much detail.
"We are feeling our way into it, it's a little bit of the unknown," he admitted.
"The brief I have given the boys is that we are not going to tie ourselves down too much on structure.
"It's more a case of letting them out there and trying things themselves because they have a huge amount of ability and the open spaces will suit them and we'll see how we adapt.
"We're doing a lot of work and want to put up a good show and be competitive."