Tuesday 23 January 2018

Anthony Foley: ‘Exciting’ Francis Saili deal done over Skype

Munster head coach Anthony Foley is 'delighted' with his new signing
Munster head coach Anthony Foley is 'delighted' with his new signing

Declan Rooney

Munster coach Anthony Foley said he’s excited about the impending arrival of All Black Francis Saili and predicts the Munster faithful will enjoy his attack-minded instincts.

Currently playing with Super 15 franchise The Blues, Saili is expected to link up with Munster by the end of October at the latest, depending on selection for New Zealand’s World Cup squad.

Should he miss out on a World Cup call, Saili could well join Munster earlier as the Super 15 season ends a month early in July this year to accommodate the World Cup, while the ITM Cup concludes in mid October.

But whenever the versatile back arrives at Thomond Park, Foley expects big things from the twice-capped New Zealander.

Skills

“Yeah, he’s a very exciting player. He’s got a lot of skills that will excite people. He’s got the attributes that will help him excel up here in the northern hemisphere,” Foley said. “He is coming and we’re all delighted with that, it’s been a long process and we’re delighted to have him on board.

“A lot of it was done over Skype and stuff like that, it wasn’t practical to go to the other side of the world and meet the lad. We’ve obviously a lot of contacts down there and we had a good chat with them and we’re delighted to get the deal through.”

Foley confirmed that Munster were still on the look-out for ‘quality players’ and that they still had some transfer business to ‘tidy up’, but in the short term he has been boosted with as strong a squad to choose from as he has had during his tenure ahead of Saturday’s Pro12 tussle away to Edinburgh.

Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Peter O’Mahony are expected to line out for the first time since their successful Six Nations campaign, while fellow internationals Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell and Ian Keatley are expected to feature.

Donnacha Ryan (concussion) and James Cronin (knee) both played a full part in training at Cork IT yesterday, while Mike Sherry (shoulder and knee) and Tyler Bleyendaal are close to returns, according to Foley.

“Mike was at training today, he’s stepped up his level of contact in terms of what he can and can’t do and we’re still hopeful we can get him back and he’s progressing nicely over the last month or so.

“I think he’s had a rough time in terms of setbacks in his return to play and it’s important for us now – he’s gone beyond where he’s gone before – so it’s important that we keep progressing his recovery.

“Tyler has stepped up his levels as well and hopefully we’ll see him before the end of the year.

“Donnacha, he’s fine; he returned to training fully today so hopefully he’ll be in the squad for the weekend. Jamesie Cronin came through the ‘A’ game and scored a nice try in the corner. He’s back fully training as well.”

Foley poured cold water on concerns over Keith Earls’ fitness after the Munster centre sat out the last 30 minutes of training. Earls had his knee strapped and iced as training concluded in Cork, but Foley insisted it was standard for the Limerick man.

“Keith’s fine. It’s just ongoing with him; he’s got to be managed from day to day so it’s all good.”

Irish Independent

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