Saturday 19 August 2017

Players are champing at bit for new campaign

Munster's Luke O'Dea
Munster's Luke O'Dea

Rob Penney

It will be great to get back out on the park tomorrow and get the new season off and running. It has been a very busy few months, with plenty of work done during the pre-season.

A lot of it has been planned since last season, but there are always a lot of things to deal as one playing season finishes and another beckons.

The players have been back for many weeks at this stage and, of course, they are really looking forward to getting back out on the pitch.

The boys have been working very hard, but it is only natural that all they want to do is get out and play.

It will be a useful workout against Gloucester. We will meet a couple of times during the season in the Heineken Cup, but tomorrow's game will give both of us the opportunity to use our wider squad.

It will be a good opportunity for players to showcase their talents. I think they are using 24 and we will have about 30, so a lot of the boys will get game time.

Next week it will be London Irish and then before we know it the competitive season will be off and running and it will be a big match every week. But that's what we all look forward, that is why all the hard work is put in.

As always, there have been changes during the close season on and off the park. I would like to pay tribute to all those who served Munster in whatever capacity.

It is inevitable players move on, either to other clubs or retire and we have some big voids to fill this season, not least with Doug Howlett and Ronan O'Gara retiring.

Both were leaders within the group and hugely respected figures throughout the world. I know supporters will find it unusual to see a Munster team without ROG.

He has moved to a new chapter in his life and I would like to wish him the best of luck in France.

His record speaks for itself and I'm sure many of the records he set may never be broken – it is the same with Dougie.

Of course, their absence presents an opportunity for others and that will be the challenge – for players to step forward and make their claim. And I have no doubt we have plenty of players within the group who will do that.

Our new skipper Peter O'Mahony is a perfect example. He has made huge leaps in a matter of a few years and was an obvious choice for captain this summer.

I wish him the best of luck as he leads Munster.

In a way, it seems like only a few weeks ago that we were playing Clermont Auvergne. The weeks have just flown by.

Myself and the family managed to get away for a break during the summer. We went to the south of France and on to Barcelona. We went through Perpignan and we will, of course, be back there in a few months in the Heineken Cup. I suspect it won't be quite so warm when we return there in December!

But that is a long way off and a lot will happen between now and then. For now, we will look no further than tomorrow's game with Gloucester when the boys will be delighted to get to play some footie after so much hard training.

I look forward to meeting you during the season and here's hoping for a great campaign.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport