Munster scrum-half Craig Casey
MUNSTER look set to give youth its fling in upcoming Guinness PRO14 fixtures as their Ireland internationals face a hectic autumn-early winter schedule.
Ireland will face six international fixtures between the end of October and early December, ruling Munster's Ireland stars out of the vast majority of the province's opening weeks of the new Guinness PRO14 season.
Munster kick-off their new PRO14 season this Saturday with a trip to Wales to take on the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets, 3pm.
With Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray ruled out of this weekend's game with a thigh injury, 21-year-old Limerick scrum-half Craig Casey looks well-placed to start the game in Wales.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan said keen competition for places in the squad is key for the province.
Van Graan said: "That’s massive for the squad, one of our big aims is to improve the squad year on year and we don’t want the starting XV to be comfortable.
"Someone like Craig (Casey) has really been pushing, he’s pushed Neil (Cronin) and Nick (McCarthy) along as well.
"At the weekend (in the 'A' fixture with over Connacht), Craig was excellent. He definitely picked up the tempo of the game, he is very good with his communication and demands a lot of his forwards.
"That will certainly be a big battle for the number nine jersey in the coming years at Munster."
Van Graan believes Munster is well served in terms of the talent coming through at the province.
"We believe that we have got a very good crop of youngsters coming through that will not only play in these games but perform in these games.
"Because there is a big difference between being selected and actually performing in a big game.
"Somebody like, I don’t want to name-drop certain guys, but someone like John Hodnett will definitely come close to our starting European team, someone like Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Jack Crowley, and Jake Flannery.
"We’ve added to the squad with Roman Salanoa, Keynan Knox is a year further along the line, Matt Gallagher is with the team, someone like Liam Coombes performed on the weekend.
"You have got guys who can be really special players but need a bit more time, someone like Thomas Ahern. We believe that we are improving not only the academy group but the squad. So we’d like to believe from a playing group that we’re better equipped a year on."