Rugby makes its debut at the Regional Sports Centre this Friday night, as Munster ‘A’ seek to protect their perfect record when facing Nottingham in their third British & Irish Cup outing.
The ‘A’ side, coached by former Munster skipper Anthony Foley and Ian Costello, has enjoyed a superb campaign, with five interprovincial wins and two B&I victories recorded thus far.
Following Clonmel RFC’s acclaimed hosting of Munster’s interpro win over Leinster last October, the south east is looking forward to another memorable night of action in a novel venue.
Better known for hosting Waterford United’s fixtures and a host of underage soccer internationals and athletics events, the RSC’s value to the city is being underlined by hosting this game.
“The rugby community in Waterford and right across East Munster for that matter, is indebted to Waterford City Council for making the RSC available for this fixture,” said Waterford City RFC’s Oliver Clery.
“Without their input, this game just wouldn’t have been possible to host here in Waterford.”
He added: “With the Munster Branch set to redevelop Musgrave Park, the province’s second home, over the next few years, this match is a showcase for the RSC, given the future prospect of further and more high-profile Munster fixtures being played in Waterford.
“This is something which the Munster Branch is seriously looking at, which means the possibility of Magners League rugby in Waterford cannot be ruled out.
“And by putting on a good show this Friday, and by attracting a big attendance on the night, the RSC is effectively putting itself in the shop window for high-profile rugby matches.
“It’s a marvellous prospect, one which I know my club and our neighbouring clubs would most heartily welcome.”
The City clubman’s words were welcomed by colleagues from Waterpark (Brendan Gallagher and Junior Drohan), Carrick-on-Suir (Mick Hickey) and Dungarvan (Trevor Doherty).
Mayor of Waterford John Halligan said that Friday’s match offered another opportunity to showcase the city to a wider audience.
“Rugby’s popularity in Waterford has skyrocketed over the past decade, due in no small part to the achievements of Munster in the European Cup and Celtic League,” he said.
“You only have to venture out to any of our local clubs on a weekend morning to see hundreds of children enjoying the game to realise the impact that players like Ronan O’Gara, Mick Galwey and Anthony Foley have made on so many households.
“To have an opportunity to host any Munster team is a great privilege for the city, and I know that everyone in Waterford City Council is delighted that Munster ‘A’ will take to the RSC pitch for the first time this Friday.
“We welcome both Munster and Nottingham to our city for what should be a keenly contested match, and we sincerely hope that our visitors from England will enjoy their time in Waterford and sample some of what Ireland’s oldest city has to offer!”
Munster will be confident of recording another B&I Cup victory to add to their wins over Coventry (20-13) and Bristol (18-6).
They come into Friday’s game fresh from an excellent 28-11 win over Connacht in Thomond Park on Thursday last, which kept their double ambitions firmly intact.
There are several names worth looking out for at the RSC from a Munster perspective. Out-half Declan Cusack will be charged with moving the Munster backs into the red zone.
Upfront, Stephen Archer has already seen action in the Magners League this season, while front row colleague Dave Ryan will hope for another profitable evening from both the tight and open play.
With Damien Varley and Billy Holland featuring from the bench for Thursday last’s win over Connacht, Munster ‘A’ look a formidable unit and will be confident of seeing off Nottingham.
For their part, the visitors lie just a point behind Munster in Pool B of this inaugural B&I Cup season, which features 24 clubs in four pools drawn from across the four ‘home’ unions.
Every match is vital, given that the four pool winners alone will progress to the next phase, with just one knock-out semi-final round to decide who reaches the final.
“Having this tournament has given us something to aim for,” Anthony Foley told The Munster Express last December.
“The benefits for the players are many. It gives them more game time, more match practice and that for me is the best way for players to improve and for coaches to see if and how they’re improving.”
Foley added: “Training only takes you so far, so these additional games are a win-win as far as I’m concerned and, come the end of the season, it would be great if we found ourselves in the shake-up for honours. That’s what this game is all about. Results are what we’re all ultimately measured by.”
Munster Community Rugby Officer John O’Neill believes the RSC will prove a great success as a rugby venue.
“Friday night should be a fantastic occasion, and I really hope that the public get behind this game and show that Waterford deserves to be considered for further representative rugby matches,” he said.
“We’re delighted with the RSC. As we all know, it’s a tremendous facility to have at the community’s disposal, and when you consider the facilities also now in place at Carriganore (WIT), there’s real scope for the city to further its claims for more Munster games looking down the line.”
With tickets keenly priced, there’s a real expectation that the RSC will be a sea of red this Friday night for the first – and surely not the last – rugby match to be played at the Kilbarry venue.
* Ticket prices for Friday night’s fixture are as follows: Adult (€10); Adult (Munster Rugby Supporters Club and 10 Year Ticketholder discounted price – €5); Schoolboy (Under 16 – €3); Family Packs (2 Adult and 2 Children – €20) and Family Pack (MRSC discounted price – €10).