Munster front row Stephen Archer feels the players have even more responsibility this year.
The experienced prop, like so many of his team mates, is really looking forward to the new season despite the continued speculation about who is going to take over from the departing Erasmus and the uncertainty around when his successor will be appointed.
At this week’s media briefing, the common thread was that the Munster camp have very much cracked on with the job in hand and have not lost their focus and insist that the decision of Erasmus to leave has not affected their preparations.
Archer says the players have had time to get used to Erasmus decision and acknowledges that returning to the top job in Springbok rugby is a big opportunity.
“We’ve had about 9 or 10 weeks of tough work now so far, so looking forward to the matches starting now.
“To be honest we were kind of kept up to date with it the whole time. Obviously he told us at the start of July whats going on, probably the same day ye heard. It’s a big opportunity for him to go home and coach his national side.”
With Erasmus departure confirmed, Archer explains that both the coaches and the players have taken on a lot of responsibility for the team and understand that they have to if they want to continue to progress and build on last season.
“In fairness to Felix and Fla [Jerry Flannery] they’ve really stepped up and are working well at the moment.
“as players theres a big responsibility for us to take ownership of ourselves, of the whole game plan.”
There is nothing like competitive rugby to focus the mind and with Treviso looming on the horizon, Archer will be putting offseason rumour and speculation behind them and concentrating on getting the newly formatted Guinness Pro14 off to a winning start.
Munster are strong favourites for the clash at Irish independent Park but Archer is taking nothing for granted and is looking to running out in front of the home crowd.
“It’s the first league match, as a Cork man down in Cork it will be great hopefully run out in front of a full house”
“Treviso are a big side, so we’ll be expecting a big challenge”
The fact that Munster’s first two opponents – of what was originally conceived as a Celtic League – hail from Treviso and Bloemfontein is testament to new and broadened horizons.
The Toyota Cheetahs will be the first of two South African sides coming to Thomond Park this season and they make the trip to Limerick next weekend. Again, most players and pundits are cautiously happy with the expansion and it’s no different for Archer who is excited about their inclusion and feels it will be great for the league, to have these different brands of rugby added.
“Its pretty exciting stuff. I suppose they bring a whole different dynamic. They’re very physical coming from SA. I’ve never been to South Africa so looking forward to that trip. It’s great to see the league expanding like this.”
The league certainly has an added dimension this year and following on from the huge progress made during the last campaign, Munster fans will be eager to see their team go one step further this year and add something to a trophy cabinet that be been empty since 2011.
Archer believes Munster have added to their game and attacking repertoire through a renewed focus on ball handling and offloading.
“Last year, the lads would have brought in great plans and stuff. During pre season it’s a great time to work on expanding your game a bit, we’ve done a lot of kind of passing work and off loading so hopefully in the next few weeks we can bring them forward. It’s about bringing it to the big games now when theres league points at stake.”
Munster fans will get a chance to see their team take to the field on Friday evening at 7:35pm with live coverage on TG4. You can listen to Stephen talking to reporters on the link below.