Edinburgh v Munster,
Live: RTÉ 2
IT’S the first competitive game of the season but already selections in Rob Penney’s team are under scrutiny.
After last week’s mis-firing line-out in the heavy defeat to London Irish Damien Varley will take to the field with one eye cast over his shoulder at a bench that contains Mike Sherry, a hooker who took full advantage of the former’s injury last season.
Both hookers were called up to Ireland’s World Cup misadventure last year while Sherry – as Varley rehabbed at home – also toured New Zealand with Ireland during the summer. Sherry also finished out last season for Munster.
Varley initially came to the fore as Jerry Flannery lurched from one
injury setback to another before eventually calling time on his career but he has, for many, subsequently been overtaken by Sherry as the latter’s missiles out of touch are considered the more accurate.
When a line-out malfunctions invariably it is the hooker who carries the can as his throwing is called into question. The reality is that it could be any number of reasons – mistimed jump, mis-timed lift, mis-heard call or, simply, good spoiling by the opposition.
Last weekend. though, Varley’s darts looked to be the problem. Sherry is one of two players – the other being Donncha O’Callaghan who starts tomorrow night – released back to Munster for tonight’s game and he will look to capitalise on any yips in Varley’s game.
The availability of O’Callaghan for Munster is a big fillip to Penney as the veteran lock will bring his customary aggression to the pack.
O’Callaghan has been working extremely hard on his ball handling skills during the pre-season as Munster’s game plan moves away from his comfort zone.
No longer will he be expected to clean out 20 rucks a game as an emphasis is placed on moving ball quickly and cleanly through the hands.
This wouldn’t be O’Callaghan’s natural game but he is renowned for his ability to adapt and his willingness to evolve and learn. Tomorrow night is his first chance to make a statement to Penney ahead of the returns of Munster’s other international (and probably first choice) locks Paul O’Connell and Donncha Ryan.
MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett capt, C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; P Butler, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, M Horan, S Archer, D Foley, B O’Mahony, P Stringer, S Deasy, I Dineen.
See today’s Evening Echo for more.