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Captain & Coach Looking Forward to Thomond Park Game.

30th October 2008 By Munster Rugby

Captain & Coach Looking Forward to Thomond Park Game.

Speaking at the Media Briefing yesterday in Limerick’s Castletroy Park Hotel, Ireland coach Declan Kidney described taking charge of his first Ireland Test match at the New Thomond Park on Saturday week as a “huge honour”.

Ireland entertain Canada there in the first of three Guinness Internationals at the newly redeveloped 26,000 capacity stadium, before Camp Kidney relocates to Dublin to complete the series against the All Blacks and Argentina in Croke Park.  

It’s well known the Ireland’s new head coach has a strong attachment to the home of Munster rugby having overseen some of the most memorable Heineken Cup matches in the province’s rich and proud history. Kidney, who masterminded two Heineken Cup titles for Munster, is holding squad sessions this week at the University of Limerick and today reduces his preliminary 43-man squad to 30-odd players. 

“It’s a bit ironic (going back),” said the Kidney. “Just to be with Ireland is a huge honour; the fact that the match happens to be in Thomond Park is great.”

“The stadium has looked really well for the matches that have been played there to date, and I think that the people who have built it have done an extraordinarily good job of mixing the new with keeping all the old because it’s like two jaws around the old stadium, ” he added.

“I’ve enjoyed the matches that I have been there to see so far – I suppose the seat I’ll be sitting in next time will be a little bit warmer, but you will just enjoy being involved in the game. Hopefully the players will enjoy it as well.”

Brian O’Driscoll, who captains the Irish against the Canucks,  also praised the new stadium structure before adding that as a Leinster man he will find it a “bit of novelty” to have a Thomond Crowd cheering him! “It’s going to be great,” enthused O’Driscoll ahead of his visit to Thomond. “I have played there once or twice before in an Irish jersey and it’s very different to playing in a blue jersey. To have a Thomond crowd cheering for you is a little bit of a novelty!

“It has turned into fantastic stadium now: you look at games on the telly from a provincial point of view, and we all look forward to going to Limerick because it’s one of the tougher games we play.

“It will be great to go down there and play in a really hard, physical international match and have the vast majority of the crowd cheering for us.”

Meanwhile Munster captain Paul O’Connell says he’s enjoying working under new Ireland forwards coach, Gert Smal, the South African who assisted Jake White on the Springboks’ road to World Cup glory last October. “He seems to be a very good coach, a very enthusiastic guy, very knowledgeable; he’s been great. The more new ideas the better we get. He’s different to Laurie (Fisher) that we have at Munster and Axel (Anthony Foley) and Niall (Niall O’Donovan) so it is good to get a cross section of ideas and a good way of doing things.

“Very often it only confirms what you have been doing all along is right. It backs that up. It’s been really good for us.”

Ireland open their November international campaign with that Thomond Park clash against Canada before facing into their most formidable assignment of the series against the All Blacks. Unlike Munster, Ireland have never beaten New Zealand but O’Connell says the match in Croke Park offers he and his team-mates another chance to create history. 

“Any time you play the All Blacks is great. They are a great side and you look forward to it. It’s a chance to create a bit of history but the reason history is against us is because they are a great side. It’s going to be a very tough day but it is a great chance for us, no doubt about it.”


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