Munster – The Next Generation

Munster v London Irish - Pre-Season FriendlyMUNSTER rugby kick off their new season this Saturday night with a home tie against Edinburgh at Musgrave Park. (Kick off at 7.15pm)
The new season sees Munster enter a new era, as Ronan O’Gara and Doug Howlett will not be gracing the field anymore for the men in red. The next generation of players will have the chance to secure their legacy, starting this weekend.
Ian Keatley, O’Gara’s direct replacement at number 10 will look to start his season on a high following two confidence boosting performances in the preseason friendlies.
With a long season ahead, Munster’s strength and depth will be tested, however the non international core of the squad has been improved this season. Andrew Conway and Gerhard van den Heever, will add to an already impressive list of young forwards.
Names such as Foley, Nagle, Butler and Cronin may well be the bolters of the coming season, much like Archer, Kilcoyne and O’Donnell of last season.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash, Munster coach Rob Penney had some good news on the injury front.
BJ Botha who suffered a grade two, medial ligament injury, to the right knee on Friday night against London Irish is expected to be side-lined for a minimum of four weeks.
Ivan Dineen who was a late withdrawal from Friday’s squad after taking a knock to his calf  returned to full training as did Keith Earls who took part in full contact training following on from his recovery from shoulder injury.
Felix Jones (shoulder) and Luke O’Dea (wrist) continue with their rehabilitation while Conor Murray, Paul O’Connell and Simon Zebo advance with their pre-season training.
Penney also indicated that a number of returning internationals should be available for consideration this week.
Munster’s only defeat on the opening weekend of the RaboDirect PRO12 since 2006 was at the hands of Glasgow Warriors in 2009. The Munster men won just two of their four home games played at Musgrave Park last season, but one of those was at least against this week’s opponents Edinburgh. No Scottish side has won on Munster home turf since Glasgow visited Cork in May 2008.
With two away games in Italy in the coming weeks, (incorporating a bonding week for the players) Munster’s next home game will be against arch rivals Leinster on October 5.