Sunday 19 January 2020

Foley set to begin Munster reign with battle against familiar faces

Anthony Foley's first game as Munster head coach will see him pit his wits against former Ireland team-mate David Humphrey's and ex-Munster coach Laurie Fisher. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Foley's first game as Munster head coach will see him pit his wits against former Ireland team-mate David Humphrey's and ex-Munster coach Laurie Fisher. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Declan Rooney

Munster coach Anthony Foley says he is looking forward to testing his young squad against a Gloucester side put together by some old friends at Kingsholm this afternoon (3pm).

Foley’s first game as Munster head coach will see him pit his wits against his former Ireland team-mate David Humphreys, who is the new director of rugby at Gloucester, and ex-Munster coach Laurie Fisher who has been handed the head coach role at Kingsholm.

As well as Humphreys and Fisher, Gloucester have been boosted by the off-season arrival of John Afoa, Richard Hibbard, Greig Laidlaw and James Hook – all of whom have been named to start this afternoon’s clash.

And Foley is well aware of the tricky opener his side have landed, but thinks today’s and next week’s tie with London Irish will be of huge benefit to his side, especially with Premiership sides Sale and Saracens in their European Champions Cup pool.

“We’ve got two English teams in our group in Europe and now we have two in pre-season. They do play a different kind of rugby in terms of the size of their forwards.

“Gloucester would have been criticised last year about the work of their tight five, but we played them three times last season and it was always a good forward tussle. We fronted up well against them.

“I’ll be renewing acquaintance with two old mates over there too. It’s great to see Laurie back over at this side of the world, he did a great job when he was here with us, he did a great job when he went back down with the Brumbies.

“Humps going over there, it will be interesting to see what direction they take. Gloucester is a club with a lot of passion. Obviously, we have a lot of history with them in Europe and there’s a great relationship between the two clubs,” said Foley.

The 62-times capped back-row has been hit by a number of injury problems ahead of his coaching debut game and as a result has named a relatively inexperienced team.

None of Munster’s current internationals are available and in total 11 players could make their first starts for the province today. It is a daunting task, but Foley thinks his side are up to the test.

“We have a lot of young bucks ready to go. We want to find out where we are in terms of preparation for the season and a good indicator would be Kingsholm.”

Gloucester: R Cook; C Sharples, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J May; J Hook, G Laidlaw; D Murphy, R Hibbard, J Afoa; T Savage, J Hudson; S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan.

Munster: S Fitzgerald; R O’Mahony, C Bohane, I Dineen, D Sweetnam; J Holland, D Williams; A Cotter, G Slattery, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, S McCarthy; S Buckley, B O’Mahony, CJ Stander.

Replacements: N Horan, K O’Byrne, J Ryan, J Madigan, R Murphy, C Sheridan, D Johnston, N Hodson, R Scannell, R Foley, G O’Shea.

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