MUNSTER COACH RASSIE Erasmus says that All Blacks full-back Ben Smith is not on his radar and that his primary transfer signings are Irish qualified.
Erasmus poured cold water on suggestions that they were prepared to make a big money move for the 30-year old All Blacks vice captain.
“We are constantly looking for Irish qualified players. One of my briefs is to get Irish qualified players well coached and available for Joe. All four provinces are the same and Ben Smith is obviously not Irish qualified, so that’s not true.”
But one All Black who could see action for Munster either against Leinster on St Stephen’s Day or away to Connacht next week is centre Francis Saili.
The 25-year old has been out with a shoulder injury since pre-season but could now be about to return in a timely boost as Munster head into a run of two derby games in the Pro12 and their three concluding games in the Champions Cup.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Erasmus said that Saili has made a full recovery and is set to return, with Munster still in ongoing talks to try retain his temporary replacement Jaco Taute beyond his short-term deal which ends next week.
“Yes, he’s very keen to play,” said Erasmus about Saili’s return. “He’s the kind of guy who enjoys when Munster plays well, so he wouldn’t be bothered that Jaco played well.
“He’d like to play well with Jaco and Rory (Scannell) or Dan (Goggin) and we are just so excited to see him out on the park and now it’s our job to make sure we manage him back into the system whilst trying to win all the time as we change and test combinations.
It’s an interesting time for us, but surely a very good situation to be in.”
Erasmus, like the other provincial coaches, will have to manage his Irish players over the festive period, with Munster likely to go full tilt against Leinster at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day and then hold back some of the internationals for the trip to Galway and a crack at Pro12 champions Connacht next weekend.
“We have guidelines from the IRFU that are communicated to all the provinces,” added Erasmus.
“They don’t tell us specifically for any game, more over a stretch of time, so many games. It’s not a surprise to us, from the beginning we’ve had to manage things around this. Up until now it has been going well, it happened in November just after the Test matches, that first back against Glasgow we did the same and hopefully we’ll be able to handle that.
“I think we must try and spread it around over the two matches. It looks like we’re in the fortunate position to be able to spread it but then sometimes you might spread it and lose both games so you want to make sure you do the right thing. We haven’t quite made up our minds yet.
“It would be stupid to play the players nine games in a row and that’s the reason behind Joe (Schmidt), David Nucifora and the IRFU stance. You always say the next game is more important and the next game is more important because jobs are on the line and supporters are wanting you to win so it’s good that we do it that way,” said the South African.
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