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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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Munster get set for Lanzarote trip with Pro12 title now the 'one goal'

Anthony Foley says his squad have ‘come out stronger’ from their disappointment in Saracens.

Andrew Conway and his teammates thank the Thomond Park crowd yesterday.
Andrew Conway and his teammates thank the Thomond Park crowd yesterday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MUNSTER’S NON-INTERNATIONAL players will enjoy five days free of rugby training from today until Friday, but a flight to Lanzarote on Saturday signals the resumption of their drive for a Pro12 title.

The province’s Strategic Plan targets at least one league success before the end of the 2016/17 season, but failure to advance into the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup – another stated goal – means the Pro12 takes on a more pressing importance.

The bitter disappointment of the performance away to Saracens will linger on, although a Pro12 trophy at Ravenhill in May would somewhat temper the suggestions that this Munster group are in the midst of a medium-term downward curve.

Leinster and Connacht have European quarter-finals to plan for in April, but for Anthony Foley’s squad, the Pro12 means everything.

Internationals such as Tommy O’Donnell, Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Paul O’Connell joined up with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland group last night at Carton House, as the remainder of the Munster players signed off for a brief holiday.

On Saturday, they will fly out to Club La Santa on the easternmost of the Canary Islands for a six-day training camp in temperatures of close to 20°C. Thereafter, a meeting with Cardiff at Musgrave Park on 14 February looms.

Head coach Anthony Foley Foley and his players head for Lanzarote this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We give the boys off until Saturday and then we get on a flight down to Lanzarote,” says head coach Anthony Foley. “We make sure we’re properly prepared, have a good camp down there.

“We come back from there and get down to a week’s work for Cardiff, then we have the Scarlets and Glasgow during the Six Nations. Hopefully our mini camp will prepare us well and hopefully we can get the results on the back end of that.”

Foley’s belief is that Munster have “come out stronger” at the other end of their heavy defeat to Saracens two weekends ago, “because we’ve all stuck together.” The former Ireland international is pleased with how his side recovered to run nine tries past Sale yesterday in Limerick.

Foley never doubted that his players could bounce back from their greatest disappointment.

I’ve no issue,” says Foley. “The problem you have at times is that they try to work too hard, trying to solve every problem. We just need coaches, manager, media manager, everybody to stay in and stay on board. I think everybody’s done that and it’s great. “

New signing Tyler Bleyendaal will join the squad in Lanzarote, although his recovery from a neck injury is ongoing. Seeing him on the pitch in Munster colours before the end of the season remains the target.

Pat Howard’s loan spell with Munster has ended, and the 22-year-old is set to return to the Western Province in the coming days. That may mean opportunities for the likes of Ivan Dineen, Rory Scannell and Dan Goggin in midfield during the Six Nations period.

Pat Howard runs in for a try Pat Howard is set to return to South Africa after his short stint in Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster currently sit third in the Pro12 table, two points behind leaders the Ospreys, with nine remaining regular season fixtures. A home semi-final would be an important step on their way towards the target of claiming the title.

We’re still only halfway through the season,” says back row O’Donnell.

“We’ve got a lot of tough games to play in the Pro12, a lot of tough games during the Six Nations, so the focus will be on the boys who are left behind and the guys coming back from Irish camp.

“We’ve got to put ourselves into the best position possible, so we finish the Pro12 well and get ourselves a good group in the Champions Cup next season, and win the Pro12. That’s our one goal.”

Welshman Jamie Roberts was in scintillating form for Racing Métro on Saturday

Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium will host this year’s Pro12 final

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Murray Kinsella

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