As Munster’s players re-assembled for the beginning of pre-season training, rumours continue to circulate over new players which the Magners League holders are set to introduce.
Topping the list is South African centre Jean de Villiers in what was reported by respected rugby sources last week as a done deal which will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
If the speculation is correct, de Villiers, lined up as a heavy hitting replacement for Rua Tipoki, has already put pen to paper in a two-year deal, which represents a major coup for Munster.
Speaking to The Munster Express last week, Munster manager Shaun Payne, hardly surprisingly, refused to be drawn on the identity of any potential new recruits.
“When it comes to recruiting foreign players, we’ve always done our best to ensure that those we bring in are of proven, world class ability, and there are only so many players who fit into that bracket at any given time,” he said.
“It’s all the more important a consideration given that we are limited in terms of the foreign players we can buy, which means it is essential that we bring in the very best player available. That has to remain the ambition.”
Meanwhile, details of the province’s pre-season fixtures have been released, with Munster facing Sale Sharks and London Irish in Musgrave Park on August 14th and 21st (both 7pm). On August 28th, Tony McGahan’s side travel to Welford Road to take on old rivals Leicester.
“It’s a slightly protracted pre-season compared to last year, in terms of the players returning from duty with the Lions, but we’re looking forward to the challenge of the new season,” Payne added.
The province’s academy has taken in three new players this summer, namely Danny Barnes, Pa O’Regan and Mike Sherry, who have been promoted from the sub-academy.
Waterpark clubman Murray Kinsella, along with Evan Ryan and Dave Sherry (Mike’s brother), have all come to the end of their Munster Academy contracts.
Academy manager Ian Sherwin said that the relatively small intake was not a source of concern.
“We tend to focus on quality over quantity and we pick players according to the specific needs of the professional game in terms of succession,” he said.
“For example when there is a shortage of players in a specific position we focus our recruitment efforts on filling that position.
“We believe in working with a core group of elite players that we can work closely with. These things also work in cycles and last year we recruited seven players to make up a group of 15 participants and this year we will have 13.” In junior rugby, the draw for the 2009/10 Martin O’Sullivan Cup has been made, with Waterford City facing a trip to Fermoy while Carrick-on-Suir will make the long trip to Kilrush.
Dungarvan, keen to eradicate last year’s nightmare campaign, will host Corca Dhuibhne in Ballyrandle, with all those games scheduled to be played on September 20th.
The split in the Third Division of the Munster Junior League is to be retained this season, ensuring that clubs in either side of the province do not have to face arduous journeys for away fixtures.
Waterford City, Carrick and Dungarvan all feature in Division Three, from which Carrick were denied promotion last time out due to an at-the-death defeat to Limerick’s Presentation in the play-off semi-final.