| 11.4°C Dublin

Anthony Foley in his own words - "I just can't wait for this first match in charge"

Close

Paul O'Connell and his Munster colleagues in training

Paul O'Connell and his Munster colleagues in training

SPORTSFILE

Paul O'Connell and his Munster colleagues in training

I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited about taking charge of my first competitive fixture as Munster head coach tonight. I'm looking forward to it, in fact I cannot wait for the whole day, the whole event of it.

I will be anxious, I will be nervous but I am looking forward to watching the boys play.

What makes it all the more exciting is that we have some serious players, we have guys that have worked very hard for their opportunity to get into the team. Hopefully they will take their opportunity, but in saying that we are coming up against a tough opponent that we know fairly well.

With a tough pre-season behind us now, we all feel that we are in a pretty good place. I think we have strengthened in a number of positions, and we now have good competition right across the board.

Obviously the one area that caused us some trouble during pre-season was that we've picked up a number of injuries at hooker.

Damien Varley, Mike Sherry, Niall Scannell and Duncan Casey all have had varying degrees of injuries and time out, so we brought in Kevin O'Byrne and Ger Slattery on training contracts, while the Argentinian Eusebio Guinazu will also join us.

That was an area of concern but I am happy now that we will have four hookers available to us when they are needed.

While the game in Gloucester was not the ideal result for us, I was happy with the whole Waterford experience. The occasion was excellent down there and the lads performed well to beat a good London Irish side.

The fact that we had a good few of the lads away representing Ireland during the summer meant that we couldn't field our experienced players in Gloucester especially, but I was happy with how the young lads acquitted themselves over there, while we were able to field a stronger side in the RSC.

We really benefited from guys returning for that game, and having a more experienced side on the pitch allowed us to play a bit more. We managed to hold possession and use it a lot better in the second game. That game will stand us in good stead.

It is also important to thank everyone in Waterford for the welcome we received. It was great to be able to play there again - I have been there a few times with the Munster 'A' side - and I'm sure other parts of the province would like an event like that in their area. Ideally we'd have loved to have been able to fit more people into the venue, but for a first-time event like that with the senior side I think it was very successful.

The one downside to the trip was seeing Cian Bohane go down late on with a serious-looking knee injury. We never want to see one of our prospects who is coming through getting a serious injury. We would like to wish him well in the recovery and hopefully we will see him back on the pitch as soon as possible.

So with such a positive game in our recent memory banks, it's nice to be facing into the first game of the Guinness Pro12 season against Edinburgh at Thomond Park.

Every Munster supporter knows how difficult it can be against Edinburgh, so we are forewarned and forearmed. I am really looking forward to coming up against Alan Solomons, he is an excellent coach. I know him from his time with Ulster, he is a very astute man, he is a good man to have a conversation with about the game.

He has assembled a strong-looking squad - from watching their pre-season games - and any side that can beat Newcastle and narrowly lose to the Leicester Tigers in their first pre-season game deserves huge respect.

There has been a good bit of change over there: they have brought in 23 players. That is a coach that's putting his stamp on the squad, he arrived late in last year and it takes time to assemble a squad.

I know from personal experience that it's a tricky job, but you get on with it. I'm lucky, I have a good coaching staff around me, I have a good manager to bounce stuff off and it is all about just making the right decision then.

We will only know on reflection whether we are right or not, but I guarantee we are not going to leave any stone unturned. We believe we are well prepared for this game. And we're looking forward to the challenge.

Irish Independent