'There’s no point shying away from it, it’s going to be a tough trip' - Munster preparing for South African trek

Alex Kendellen in action for Munster against Benetton. Photo by Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Sean O'Connor

Munster back-row Alex Kendellen is aware their Champions Cup last 16 clash against the Sharks will be a difficult task, but insists his side are relishing the trip to South Africa next week.

Munster were handed the tricky draw after finishing sixth in Pool B with two wins in four, while they also face the Stormers, and the Sharks again in URC action later next month, in a busy April period for Graham Rowntree’s side.

“There’s no point in shying away from it, it’s going to be a tough trip down there,” said Kendellen, speaking at an event for Munster Schools Senior Cup sponsors Pinergy.

“But look, it’s something we’re all massively looking forward to. It’s been in the back of our heads now since the draw came out and one we’re really looking forward to.”

The 22-year-old, who made his senior debut against Scarlets in March 2021, praised head coach Rowntree and his staff, and believes the intensity of their training sessions has helped them perform on the pitch, as they enter Saturday’s Thomond Park URC clash against Glasgow Warriors having won six of their last seven outings.

“Graham has changed it a lot,” said Kendellen of his head coach, who took up the position last year.

“We’re not out there for that long but when we are, we’re training extremely hard. It’s very intense. It’s probably a small bit different from last year but it’s preparing us for the games at the weekend.

“The way Graham, Mike (Prendergast - Attack Coach), and Denis (Leamy - Defence coach) are all getting us to train, it’s really showing in those games now towards the back end of the season.”

“There was always going to be a small bit of a transition period with the new coaches coming in but I think we’ve turned the corner and we’re starting to show what we’re doing in training,” added the back-row, after the province began this season with five defeats in their first seven URC games.

“It’s becoming very enjoyable going out and playing on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday because we’re putting the work in in training throughout the week. I have probably not made as many starts as I would have wished but it’s about knowing my role in the team and hopefully trying to kick on from last season.

“I’m really enjoying my rugby. The coaches have really brought a new aspect into the club and it’s really enjoyable. Denis has been great for me. I had him at U-20s as well and we have a good relationship. He’s opened my eyes to a lot of different things defence-wise and it’s good to have him back at the club.”