1st December 2011 By Munster Rugby
Other than the well documented absentees, the return to fitness of Donnacha Ryan and Denis Leamy means Tony McGahan will be dealing from a full deck when he sits down after training today to select his side for the RaboDirect PRO12 clash with League leaders Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Mind you the notable absentees include internationals Felix Jones, Keith Earls, Jerry Flannery and David Wallace but in mitigation Ospreys will point to the Wales/Australia game on Saturday that leaves them without their international contingent.
And without them they largely are as they were when they eased their way to the top of the heap winning seven, drawing one of their opening nine games.
“We're playing an Ospreys side who're leading the table”, McGahan says, “They've had a fantastic start to the season both in the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12. They turned us over at home in round six, 17-13 so we really need to make sure we make up those three points (league) that we lost there at home. And now we get an opportunity this weekend to atone for that.”
The anticipation is that McGahan will ring the changes again and rather than discuss whether or not he will, he prefers to look back at the positives from last Saturday. “Last weekend's result and last weekend's performance was really important on a number of levels.”
“Firstly we were well beaten by Edinburgh over there in Round 5 and for us it was a question of getting back a little bit of respect with the performance we put in.”
“Alot of the individual players involved in Murrayfield played on Saturday were able to get a little bit of redemption but more importantly to make a lot of changes like that in one go leaves you with a little apprehension. But I think with the way the squad played, with a lot of continuity and a lot of confidence it certainly leaves, from a squad perspective, a really good feel around the place. That everyone's on the right page, everyone's going in the right direction.”
“Yes it really was a good team effort,” he continues and when pressed on individulas he relents and says, “Luke O'Dea playing his first game at home, a Shannon boy, still being Academy 2 level, helped by those around him, did really well. Simon Zebo was terrific, Denis Hurley had an exceptionally strong game.
“Then what some people term the old stagers, in the forward pack, Marcus and Donncha really led us during the week, then Mick O'Driscoll was captain for the evening, led superbly during the week and that was all really evident in the display and the way the older group really set the example and the younger ones, it wasn't that they followed, they led themselves in the way they played and the way they conducted themselves So, yes, a strong display.”
But one swallow never made a summer? “It's a long season, the RaboDirect, and you need to be consistent. That's one of the things we've prided ourselves on over the last three years, our consistency and our ability to be able to win on the road.”
“So it'll be a really good test of where you're at. We're going to have a tough task this weekend. We know that. If we get a result this weekend. It'll be huge. But we certainly recognise what we're up against Ospreys, a well coached side and you always get a good indicator where you're at, playing Ospreys away from home.”