Chisholm in the frame for Munster debut, but Foley excited by academy lock Madigan

THERE’S NO ESCAPING it. Munster have a hole to fill. Since 2001, the southern province have had the twin totems of Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan to rely upon. Now, it’s finally time to move on to a new era of second rows.

Former Wallaby Mark Chisholm was recruited at the tail end of the summer, a 33-year-old ready-made replacement for some of the experience lost and the Australia appeared to play a central role in today’s training session.

“Mark’s in the squad,” Foley told Limerick’s Live95 after training in UL today.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We just need to see whether he’s up to speed yet. He’s a very experienced player and somebody everybody’s excited to see.”

One man does not fill the void of course. So while Chisholm gets to grips with match fitness and the Munster calls, Foley is perfectly happy to bring along young homegrown talent. Namely Corkman John Madigan, who on Saturday made his Munster debut at the beginning of his third year in the academy.

“John struggled with injury and the likes over the last 24 months,” the head coach says of the 21-year-old 120kg lock.

“It’s great now, he had a full pre-season behind him this year. no hiccups. And he has been able to get a run of games due to Donncha O’Callaghan’s decision (and) then with Sean McCarthy getting a bang against Connacht John was left in pole position.

There was a further reason for Foley to be positive before travelling to face Ospreys in Swansea this weekend – a traditional not-so-happy hunting ground. Francis Saili is nearing a return to fitness despite huge initial concern over the Kiwi centre after he was stretchered off 65 minutes into the pre-season meeting with London Irish.

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Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Francis Saili has gone through his (concussion return to play) protocols, he did a fair chunk of today’s training. We just need to see how he rocks up tomorrow, if he passes all his protocols and whether he’s up for selection.”

With the home win over Treviso still fresh in his head though, Foley witnessed enough good signs from the partnership of Rory Scannell and David Johnston to suggest that he would give the new midfield pairing a second run.

“I was very happy with the 12 and 13 last week, I thought they created a lot of opportunities. Sometimes it’s just about giving the pass. I thought the two of them functioned very well against a very physical Treviso backline.”

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