Updated Aug 6 as League times confirmed.
Anticipation for the new season is building.
On July 19th the Rabodirect Pro12 League published their schedule, enabling fans to do some preliminary planning for their weekends during the season! League fixtures now available here http://www.rabodirectpro12.com/news/16765.php identifying the opposition for each weekend but the actual times and dates for the first half of the season were not confirmed till August 6th. Munster start at home to Edinburgh and it was confirmed today that it will be played in Cork, on the Saturday. Their next 2 games see them travelling away for 2 games in Italy, and you can find all the Munster fixtures at http://www.munsterrugby.ie/rugby/results_and_fixtures.php or just the league update http://www.munsterrugby.ie/news/12142.php#.UgFj4CpONkc
In the European Cup draw, Munster are top seeds in Pool 6 alongside Perpignan, Edinburgh and Gloucester which will give an extra edge to the August encounter with the latter team. Munster played Edinburgh 4 times last season (league and Cup) and won 4/4. They will hope to continue that again next season. The Red Army know how to get there after exploring those logistics last season and have also been to Gloucester and Perpignan in prior seasons so there will be some useful information sharing between fans as usual. Given that the games will be played in October, December and January there will be a challenge with the trip to Perpignan in the Basque country as many of the more direct flight options only operate for the summer season (May – September) so a more scenic route may be required! It will be good to see former Munster player Lifemi Mafi (playing for Perpignan since last season) in action again. Tickets may also be scarce for the away game in Gloucester but they have a great rugby tradition and I would love to see their famed “The Shed” at their Kingsholm stadium in person.
On July 22nd the ERC Fixture details were revealed and it is great that all games from the first four rounds will be broadcast by Sky in case I don’ get on both away trips:
- Round 1: Sat. Oct. 12th: Edinburgh Rugby v Munster Rugby, Murrayfield Stadium, 1.35pm
- Round 2: Sat. Oct. 19th: Munster Rugby v Gloucester Rugby, Thomond Park Stadium, 6pm
- Round 3: Sun. Dec. 8th: Munster Rugby v USA Perpignan, Thomond Park Stadium, 12.45pm
- Round 4: Sat. Dec. 14th: USA Perpignan v Munster Rugby, Stade Aimé Giral, 4.40pm (3.40pm in Ireland)
Round 5: TBC after Round 4 Weekend 10/11/12 Jan. 2014: Gloucester Rugby v Munster Rugby, Kingsholm Stadium. Round 6: TBC after Round 4 Weekend 17/18/19 Jan. 2014: Munster Rugby v Edinburgh Rugby, Thomond Park Stadium.
On July 15th the new Jersey was unveiled!
New signings this season are Andrew Conway (from Leinster) and 24 year old South African winger Gerhard van den Heever will join on a two year contract in November after he has completed his Currie Cup duties with the Stormers.
Anticipation is building for the 2 home pre-season friendlies against Gloucester on Saturday August 24th at 5.00pm in Thomond Park Limerick and the following Friday August 30th London Irish will be in Cork for the game in Musgrave Park with a 7.00pm start. Tickets are now on sale and the series is being sponsored by SEAT.
While the friendlies are generally low key affairs they provide an opportunity to see how some of the younger players (not part of the IRFU player welfare programme) have come through pre-season training. It should also provide an opportunity to see Andrew Conway in the new Munster jersey and of course we may see former Munster player Tomas O’Leary lining out for London Irish. Last year I was at the friendly in Cork and many of the senior players were there signing autographs and posing for photographs so it can be a a good family day out.
Congratulations to Peter O’Mahony who has been announced as the Squad Captain for this season, building on his experience captaining Ireland in the games v USA and Canada recently.
Finally, for those who enjoy giftgrub, they have marked the occasion of Paul O’Connell’s recent wedding featuring ROG and BOD – http://www.todayfm.com/player/podcasts/The_Ian_Dempsey_Breakfast_Show/The_Ian_Dempsey_Breakfast_Show/2279/2/Gift_Paulie_Wedding
The countdown to the new season continues…