Munster may be without outhalf Joey Carbery for the opening two rounds of the Champions Cup against Ospreys and Racing 92 but defence coach JP Ferreira said the main priority was to get him and all the Irish internationals right for the season on their return from the World Cup.
Carbery is rehabbing a knee injury picked up in August against Italy which troubled him during the World Cup and Munster are waiting to assess how long it will be before he is back in action.
Ferreira, who on Tuesday signed a two-year contract extension, explained: “Look, it has been a tough campaign for the Irish lads, as a World Cup is for any team. So, we’ll slowly integrate them back, see where their mental state is and also their physical state is. And we know Joey has got the injuries so we have to reassess him.
“Some of them have already been into the High-Performance Centre and we have seen them. Some of them are in really good spirits, they need to get new detail from Steve’s (Larkham) side, from Graham’s (Rowntree) side, get them settled again, just get them on par with what our beliefs are for the season and where we are off to with the group.
“We’ll see them next week and then make an assessment next week. Obviously the IRFU has got the policies of when they can and can’t play, putting all those things together we’ll then have a plan for each individual.
“We want to pick our best side. If we can we will but there are obviously possibilities of not,” he said.
The South African is preparing the side for their trip to Cardiff Blues on Saturday but, inevitably, he is keeping tabs on happenings in Japan in the build-up to the World Cup final between the Springboks and England.
Former England prop Graham Rowntree joined Munster on Monday as forwards coach and the rivalry will begin early on Saturday morning as Ferreira will be rooming with him in Cardiff!
Ferreira said that it will be interesting to get Rowntree’s take on players who Munster will face in the coming months who have featured against the Georgia team that the former English international coached in the World Cup.
“I think I’m actually rooming with him in Cardiff so we’ll be in each other’s ears early on Saturday morning. But I’m looking forward to working with him and to getting to know him,” said Ferreira.
He said that the World Cup final is going to mean more than a game of rugby back home in South Africa and he’s hoping that the legacy and impact of the 1995 and 2007 victories can be repeated.
“There are a lot of difficulties in South Africa at the moment and I really hope that this can bring the nation together again. The ‘95 World Cup and 2007 World Cup all over again. The difficulties we are going through at the moment, they have said it so many times in the last week leading up to the semi final and to the final this week, they are not just doing it for themselves they are doing it for the country. it’s massive for the country.”
He was only 13 when they won it for the first time in 1995 and he watched it at home in Pretoria but his stepfather Billy Fourie was the co-pilot who flew a South African Airways Boeing jet low over Ellis Park prior to the final against New Zealand.
By the time of the 2007 decider Ferreira was working with the Lions, a club he helped win the Currie Cup in 2010 when John Mitchell, the current England defence coach, was his boss.
One of his former Munster colleagues Felix Jones is part of the Springboks coaching team for Saturday's final and Ferreira is delighted the way things have turned out for him.
“Obviously he didn’t accept his contract with us and he got this, so I’m very excited for him. it’s unbelievable, he just sent me a text in the week saying he is flying the flag, so it’s good.
“I’m sure they have accepted him really quickly, in a short space of time they had to. But I also know that Jonesy probably would have accepted them as well,” he added.
*JP Ferreira was speaking at an event in Limerick where it was announced that Life Style Sports will donate €5 from every Munster jersey sold in their stores and online in the build-up to Christmas to Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, one of Munster’s official charity partners.