Head Coach: Anthony Foley
Captain: Peter O’Mahony
Position 2013/2014: 3rd
Stadium: Thomond Park
Munster Rugby Season Preview:
It’s a big year for Munster and especially newly installed Head Coach Anthony Foley. Foley’s name is synonymous with all things Munster and has now got the chance to show his coaching credentials at the top level. He has also installed a coaching team exclusively from the province in former players Mick O’Driscoll, Jerry Flannery and Brian Walsh, plus Ian Costello is promoted.
Munster have not made major signings in the off season but have added some functional players rather than star names. Robin Copeland has great potential and was Cardiff Blues’ outstanding player over the past two seasons. Tyler Bleyendaal can play both out half and inside centre while Andrew Smith is comfortable at outside centre and on the wing.
Both starting centres from last season, James Downey and Casey Lualala have moved on to pastures new and this will see Munster have a change of tactic in midfield for the upcoming season. In JJ Hanrahan, Ian Keatley and Bleyendaal, the Red Army have three players comfortable at out half and inside centre. Bleyendaal’s signing in particular suggests that Munster will employ a passing game rather than the crash ball play of Downey. They still have that option with Ivan Dineen and Denis Hurley but it’s unlikely.
Lualala’s move to Racing Metro has also opened the door for Keith Earls to return to his favoured position of outside centre. Earls needs a big season. He has endured a torturous, injury ravaged couple of years and if he manages to stay fit he could also solve the outside centre berth for Ireland.
One of the facets that worked very well under Rob Penney was the scrum. Jerry Flannery has taken over in that area and with the help and experience of BJ Botha, Munster will hope that the scrum will remain.
Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony are of course key to the pack and Munster are a force to be recognised when they are included in the starting lineup. CJ Stander had a great second half of last season and Sean Dougall also impressed. Expect Munster to give the Guinness Pro 12 a rattle this term and finish top of the league stage.
Martin Kelly (Prop) from Dublin University
Eusebio Guinazu (Hooker) from Bath
Shane Buckley (Back Row) from Academy
Robin Copeland (Back Row) from Cardiff Blues
Jonathan Holland (Out Half) from Academy
Tyler Bleyendaal (Out Half/Centre) from Crusaders
Andrew Smith (Centre/Wing) from Brumbies
Quentin MacDonald (Hooker) to Chiefs
James Coughlan (Back Row) to Pau
Ian Nagle (Second Row) Released
James Downey (Centre) to Glasgow Warriors
Casey Laulala (Centre) to Racing Métro
Niall Ronan Retired
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