The Cup That Cheers Returns
11th November 2011 By Munster Rugby
Plenty of talking points after Munster named their side today for the Heineken Cup opener against Northampton Saints tomorrow with Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Leamy and newcomer Will Chambers all relegated to the bench.
Donnacha Ryan takes O'Callaghan's place along the skipper Paul O'Connell in the second row, James Coughlan supplants Leamy as the number 8 from the Leinster game while 21 year old Danny Barnes is preferred in the outside channel to Chambers, the Super 15 winning medalist.
Prior to last year's final pool game against London Irish, you have to go back to 2002/03 season for the last time O'Callaghan didn't start in an entire Pool campaign (he played in 4 of their 6 games) for Munster in the Heineken Cup while Leamy has been an ever present in the side, injury aside, since making his debut in 2004.
Ryan, O'Callaghan's replacement has been seen more as a back-rower up to now but relishes the opportunity presented to him. “Over the years I'd a been longing to play second row but obviously with the calibre of player that was there I had to play back-row and yeh I'd like to nail down a second row place but basically I'd like to play rugby so at the end of the day so I'll play where I'm put really.”
Looking forward to Saturday's game the Tipperary native admits, ” It's a really serious challenge, a huge night and one when we'll really look to have the crowd behind us cause we'll need them.”
He's acutely aware of the challenge posed by last year's beaten finalists and particular individuals. “They'd a great run last year. Topped their Pool, got to the final. Maybe just ran out of steam in the second half.
“Lawes is a key player. A really big guy, he's very powerful, very fast. We saw his quality in the World Cup and we'll have to be on our toes there. Then there's Dylan Hartley as well, a key member of their side, a leader for them.
“First of all we have to play for 80 minutes, last week our discipline was poor as well and we were a bit sporadic in our performance So we're really going to have to concentrate on ourselves, on our own discipline and basically be as relentless as possible for 80 minutes.”
The home comfort of an opener in Thomond Park Stadium is tempered by the need to secure a home win but Ryan only sees the positives. “There's probably always pressure playing with Munster and it's pressure we put on ourselves but that's the challenge we love rising to.
“Playing in Thomond Park is going to give us a real boost. Last year was a very hurtful year for us in our performance in the Heineken Cup so this time around we'll take every game as it comes. Home or away we're just set on going out there and doing our best.