Bradley pays tribute to Munster triumph

Michael Bradley has hailed Munster's achievement after they were crowned European champions for a second time in three seasons. [more]

Bradley pays tribute to Munster triumph

Michael Bradley has hailed Munster’s achievement after they were crowned European champions for a second time in three seasons.

Michael Bradley has hailed Munster’s achievement after they were crowned European champions for a second time in three seasons.

The Ireland coach will be without a considerable Munster contingent for tonight’s appointment with the Barbarians at Kingsholm. They do not link up with Bradley’s New Zealand-bound tour squad until later this week.

But Bradley, coach for Tests against the All Blacks and Australia next month before Munster boss Declan Kidney moves into the Ireland hot-seat, has joined captain Brian O’Driscoll in acclaiming their latest European Cup triumph.

Munster were criticised in some quarters for the style of play they adopted in closing out Millennium Stadium opponents Toulouse last Saturday.

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But Bradley said: “Munster are European Champions in a competition that is nine matches long.

“They played plenty of good rugby over the nine games, but their objective last weekend was to win the game, and I can see that style working at international level in order to close a game out.

“They came through an extremely hard group where all four teams could have graced the semi-finals of the competition.

“They have given a huge amount to Irish rugby, and that is what we must remember.”

O’Driscoll leads an Irish XV tonight drawn largely from Leinster and Ulster, with most interest surrounding his new centre partnership alongside the highly-rated Luke Fitzgerald.

While Bradley can call on the experience of players like O’Driscoll, wing Shane Horgan and lock Malcolm O’Kelly, there is also an opportunity for players who will spearhead Ireland A’s Churchill Cup challenge in the USA and Canada next month.

Australian centre Morgan Turinui leads the Barbarians, with former Wallabies fly-half Stephen Larkham wearing the number 10 shirt and Gloucester’s England wing Lesley Vainikolo also starting.

And there could be a surprise place on the bench for New Zealand flanker Jerry Collins.

The Wellington Hurricanes forward, who is likely to start next Sunday’s Twickenham encounter between England and the Barbarians, has called time on his playing career in New Zealand.

The 27-year-old has been given an early release from his New Zealand Rugby Union contract and will take a break from the game before considering his future.

Collins said: “It’s something that I have thought about for a while.

“I have played 10 years for the one province and it’s a pretty hard place to leave, but I have decided that it is probably the right time for me to bow out now.”

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