Edinburgh Rugby scrum half Sean Kennedy will be on familiar territory when he lines up for tonight’s Guinness Pro12 opener against Munster at Thomond Park (kick off 7.35pm).
The 23-year-old was a regular at the stadium in Limerick while his family lived there for around a decade before returning to Scotland for Kennedy to attend secondary school. And while his relatives will be out in force to see him perform on Irish soil, the Scotland sevens and age group cap will be keen to dampen their celebrations.
“I grew up in Limerick but this is the first time I’ve played at Thomond Park, so I’m really excited,” he explained. “I used to go to loads of Munster games. I will have family coming along to the game, but they will be cheering for Munster.”
Recalling the days when he was among the Munster supporters who backed the side that featured recently-appointed coach Anthony Foley, Kennedy added: “Foley was the main man back then. I would have loved to have played for Munster when I was a kid but I suppose getting the chance to play against them is just as good. Having played sevens when I came out of school, that tied me to Scotland and I am more than happy with that decision.”
Kennedy was surprised to earn the nod from coach Alan Solomons, who appeared to favour Sam Hildago-Clyne, wearer of the No.9 shirt in each of Edinburgh’s pre-season matches. Kennedy’s view had been formed after he shared the second half of last week’s win over Newcastle Falcons with Grayson Hart, who is still on his way back from injury.
“I knew I was only playing 20 minutes against Newcastle, so I had to get on and not make any mistakes and be as sharp as I could be. It was a bit of a slippy, wet night so it wasn’t great for running rugby, but we did alright. It’s just about taking chances when you get them. So far I feel I have played OK pre-season.”
Acknowledging the battle he faces to secure regular game time, he added, “There is a lot of competition there. I think we all bring different things. In training it brings the best out of us. We know if we are not training well, we are not going to play. It is healthy competition. We are not trying to pull one on each other or anything. We are always helping each other out and passing little tips.
“And there are young guys coming through like (Alex) Glashan and Hugh Fraser. They are both looking really sharp as well, so it’s not just the three of us.”
Solomons admitted that his team had suffered a ‘stuffing’ in the shape of a 55-12 defeat in the most recent match against Munster, at Meggetland in early May, and knows that all of his men must be at their best to have any chance of winning tonight’s match, which is the third successive occasion the sides have met in the opening round of Pro12 fixtures, with the Irishmen winning on each previous occasion.
“If you are 15%-20% off your game against a quality team like Munster you are in trouble,” he said, before suggesting that the Irish side’s style of play is likely to differ from that encouraged by Foley’s predecessor, Rob Penney. “I think there will be slight tweaks in the way they play and to some extent they will go back a bit to the Munster way. I think they will be a strong mauling side. I think they will play a bit for territory.”
With Mike Coman starting on the bench as Solomons eases the newly-appointed skipper back into competitive action, and vice-captain Grant Gilchrist also on the road to recovery from injury, Ross Ford will lead the side.
Munster, who have lost their last two matches at Thomond Park, will be looking to set aside off-field issues – a sheepish Foley was forced to apologise to his players earlier this week after admitting he had inadvertently attached derogatory comments about them to an email circulated around his squad.