MUNSTER launched their quest for a third Heineken Cup without two of their iconic stars.
The province began their pre-season training proper with a public session at Youghal Rugby Club today (Friday) to mark the 50th anniversary of the east Cork club’s founding.
But absent were Paul O’Connell who is on honeymoon after his wedding in France last weekend and Ronan O’Gara who has switched to a coaching role with Racing Metro in France.
Also absent from the Youghal training session were Munster's other two British and Irish Lions, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo.
Because the pair were in Australia for the Lions tour for virtually a month, they have been given extended holiday leave.
They are both not due to report back for full Munster squad training for another fortnight.
It will be the first time in 16 years, and only the third time in their history, that Munster will have started a Heineken Cup campaign with Ronan ‘Rog’ O’Gara who is the province’s all time highest points scorer.
Over 300 fans gathered to watch the new-look Munster being put their paces by coach Rob Penney on a blustery day by the seaside town.
Skipper Peter O’Mahony happily posed for photos with local schoolchildren while Munster veteran, Donncha O’Callaghan, admitted that it will be strange not having ‘Rog’ around.
For a number of stars it was firmly back to basics after enjoying the festivities in France during Paul O’Connell’s marriage to his long-time partner, Emily, at a star-studded event in Auch.
Last weekend, it was savouring a wedding in glorious sunshine in south-west France,
Today, it was a no-holds-barred training session as Rob Penney’s fitness and conditioning coaches got to work to prepare the Munster squad for their first match on August 24.
Munster’s season begins with pre-season friendly games against Gloucester and London Irish (August 24) before their first competitive match of the season on September 6 in the Rabo Direct League.