Guinness PRO12: Munster boss not looking too far ahead

Anthony Foley is not thinking about a home semi-final until the Irish province have secured their place in the top four

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Anthony Foley was delighted to welcome back Ireland's RBS 6 Nations heroes Photo: Jason O'Callaghan

Anthony Foley believes it would be unwise to start thinking about a Guinness PRO12 home semi-final before they have secured a top four place.

Munster moved into second place on points difference ahead of provincial rivals Ulster with a thumping 34-3 win over Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield, but their head coach expects rounds 20 and 21 to be particularly feisty as the battle to reach the knock-out stages intensifies.

Until the point you’ve guaranteed top four I don’t think looking that far up the table is wise, particularly with some of the fixtures that are going to come up over the next two rounds

Anthony Foley on the tight race to secure a home semi-final

Rivals Leinster – who face Toulon in the European Champions Cup semi-final next weekend – could see their title defence come to an end with two rounds left to play if they lose to Newport Gwent Dragons on Sunday and Ulster on Saturday 25 April.

Meanwhile, Munster have a week off before hosting lowly Italian side Benetton Treviso in Cork, before travelling up to Belfast to take on Ulster on Saturday 9 May, and ending their campaign with another match at Irish Independent Park against Newport Gwent Dragons a week later on the final day of the season.

For now, Foley is focusing on securing a top four finish that would guarantee another season of knock-out rugby.

“It keeps us in the hunt for the top four,” he said after watching his side thrash Edinburgh.

“It was important with the wins yesterday for Glasgow and the Ospreys, and then today with Ulster, all getting five points.

“The extra point wasn’t something that we planned, but it’s something we’ll take, and it’s something our second-half performance deserved.

“We’ve three games left – two of them at home. You want to win your home games and try and sneak a couple away.

“We want to maintain the top four. People talk about the home semi. At the moment, with the way the top half of the league is working, you want to make sure you’re in the top four, and get into the knock-out stages, so that’s our focus.

“You’ve got to get one first, you’ve got to make sure you’re in that position [to get a home semi-final].

“If we can go into the last weekend and we can get top two you work to that, but until the point you’ve guaranteed top four I don’t think looking that far up the table is wise, particularly with some of the fixtures that are going to come up over the next two rounds, which are going to be feisty enough.”

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Munster’s Paul O’Connell lifts the RBS 6 Nations trophy at BT Murrayfield Photo: Jason O’Callaghan

While Edinburgh continue to be hit by injuries to key personnel with scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne withdrawn before kick-off and number eight David Denton going off injured after just 12 minutes, Munster have been able to bolster their squad with internationals from Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations title defence.

Foley welcomed back Ireland captain Paul O’Connell, Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and influential scrum-half Conor Murray to his starting XV after Ireland’s day to remember at BT Murrayfield on 21 March.

And with Munster’s international heroes reintegrated into the squad, Foley insists that the province need all of their players moving forward for the final three matches as they look to secure their place in the top four.

“They enjoyed the couple of weeks they had back training with us,” Foley added.

“Obviously they had a massive high in Murrayfield [last month], so it’s great to have them back.

“It’s great for the players who have worked very hard throughout the Six Nations to get us into the position in the league that we’re in, and it’s important now as a group that we move forward.

“We don’t look at it as the internationals coming back, we see it as everybody coming home; it’s one big group, and we’re moving forward.

“We need everyone moving forward into the latter part of this league campaign.

“It’s an excellent league and everyone is capable of beating one another.”

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