IN December Peter Stringer was parachuted in to Saracens from Munster to assist them during their injury crisis. Sarries regulars Richard Wigglesworth and Neil de Kock were struck down with knee and arm injuries respectively, leaving 19-year-old Ben Spencer at the top of the pile, and seeing as he was such an unknown quantity at the time, Mark McCall and co were only too happy to welcome Stringer with open arms.
The three month loan has gone well for the Ireland veteran as well. This season he has been given limited game time by coach Tony McGahan, as Conor Murray and Tomás O’Leary have battled it out for the red No 9 jersey, so an opportunity to stretch his legs and show what he’s still capable of doing was one that Stringer grabbed with both hands. And although Vicarage Road seems like a far cry from Limerick’s Thomond Park, Stringer says the two clubs are more similar than they might seem on the surface.
“It’s gone really well here and the team are going well, it’s just been great to get the game time,” said Stringer. “Once you start playing it feels like normal, and although there are different elements to the training structure once you get out onto the rugby pitch it’s pretty similar. At Munster we pride ourselves on having great spirit and camaraderie, and that’s certainly something they have here in abundance. They make you do all these things like singing and dancing to initiate you, which make you feel very uncomfortable but also very welcome!”
Stringer may be miles apart from his Irish team-mates at present, but after 11 years in the Ireland set up there are few people who know the squad as well as he does. They have had a frustrating start to the RBS 6 Nations, losing 21-23 at home to Wales through a last minute penalty before having their game against France postponed due to a frozen pitch, and will now play four Test matches in consecutive weeks without a break. However, Stringer is backing his old team-mates to bounce back says they could still challenge for the title.
“I watched the game against Wales and Ireland didn’t play as well as I know and they know they’re capable of doing,” Stringer admitted. “Wales deserve credit because they played well, but Ireland will be disappointed with how they let them in at the death of the game.
“Playing four games on the trot will be difficult, but I know the characters in that team are well able to cope with the challenge,” Stringer continued. “In the week building up to France the boys would have been well up for it, because when you’ve had a defeat all you want is to get straight back into it. They would have been very disappointed that the game was called off.
“Italy will be a tough game and the boys need to go back to basics. It’s important to get a win for team spirit, and so they can get themselves back into contention for the championship.”
Highlights from last year’s RBS 6 Nations clash between Italy and Ireland