Tuesday 6 December 2016

Munster can't afford another poor start to cup

Published 10/11/2015 | 02:30

Foley: Looking to lay down marker
Foley: Looking to lay down marker

Anthony Foley has done his best in recent weeks to drum up the Munster support of old and although performances on the pitch are still far from perfect, his side have a golden opportunity to lay down a serious marker in their Champions Cup pool opener.

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The fixture list has been kind to Munster in that they welcome arguably the poorest team in the competition to Thomond Park but a Saturday evening kick-off against Treviso doesn't exactly have the same allure as next month's mouth-watering clash against Leicester Tigers.

Ticket sales have been waning down south for some time and it has evidently irked Foley, who has publicly voiced his concern in recent weeks.

In the last five years, Munster have lost three of their five opening games in Europe, while last season, they scraped past a Sale side who would go on to lose all six of their pool games and finish seventh in the Premiership.

Foley and his players will do their best to play down expectations ahead of their meeting with Treviso but the reality of the situation that both teams find themselves in is that Munster should be looking to come away with a bonus-point victory if they are to give themselves a chance of emerging from a tough pool.

Leicester host Stade Francais on Friday night which means that come 5.15 the following day, Munster will know which one of their rivals are already playing catch-up.

It's almost inconceivable to imagine Munster not beating a Treviso side who are without a win in the Pro12 since last February but it is imperative that they do so in such a manner as to build confidence ahead of a tough trip to Paris next week.

In the build-up to the World Cup, Joe Schmidt spoke about the need for Ireland to peak at the right time and although they did so too soon, Munster will be aware that they also need to time their run.

They travel to Leicester five days before Christmas and by that stage of the competition, Pool 4 will have a different complexion.

Domestically, Munster have lost just once this season and that took a last-gasp penalty to beat them. There has been a changing of the guard in recent seasons but the younger generation are beginning to show signs that they have the ability to grind out results.

In a pool where bonus points, losing ones included, are going to be decisive, that doggedness which has been a trademark of Munster in Europe down through the years, could prove crucial once again.

However, Foley is yet to find his best starting XV and there are several positions still up for debate.

In the pack, it would seem that just four of the eight players are guaranteed their place while in the back-line, the tinkering in recent weeks would suggest that the coach is still searching for his best combinations.

In times gone by, Munster supporters would flock to Limerick for a Saturday evening European kick-off regardless of the opposition.

Thomond Park may not be the fortress it once was but a ruthless display in this game may encourage more to return and help rebuild its fearsome reputation.

Anthony Foley has done his best in recent weeks to drum up the Munster support of old and although performances on the pitch are still far from perfect, come Saturday evening his side have a chance to lay down a serious marker in their Champions Cup pool.

The fixture list has been kind to Munster in that they welcome arguably the poorest team in the entire competition to Thomond Park but a Saturday evening kick-off against Treviso doesn't exactly have the same allure as next month's mouthwatering clash against Leicester Tigers.

Ticket sales have been waning down south for quite some time now and it has evidently irked Foley who has publicly voiced his concern in recent weeks.

In the last five years, Munster have lost three of their five opening games in Europe, while last season, they scrapped past a Sale side who would go on to lose all six of their pool games and finish seventh in the Premiership.

Foley and his players will do their best to play down expectations ahead of their meeting with Treviso but the reality of the situation that both teams find themselves in is that Munster should be looking to come away with a bonus point victory if they are to give themselves a chance of emerging from a tough pool.

Leicester host Stade Francais on Friday night which means that come 5.15 the following day, Munster will know which one of their rivals are already playing catch up.

It's almost inconceivable to imagine Munster not beating a Treviso side who are without a win in the Pro12 since last February but it is imperative that they do so in such a manner as to build confidence ahead of a tough trip to Paris next week.

In the build up the World Cup, Joe Schmidt spoke about the need for Ireland to peak at the right time and although they did so too soon, Munster will be aware that they also need to time their run.

They travel to Leicester five days before Christmas and by that stage of the competition, Pool 4 will have an altogether complexion.

Domestically, Munster have lost just once all season and that took a last-gasp penalty to beat them. There has been a changing of the guard in recent seasons but the younger generation are beginning to show signs that they have the ability to grind out results.

In a pool where bonus points, losing ones included, are going to be decisive, that doggedness which has been a trademark of Munster in Europe down through the years, could well prove crucial once again.

However, Foley is yet to find his best starting XV with several positions certainly still up for debate.

In the pack, it would seem that just four of the eight players are guaranteed their place while in the back-line, the tinkering in recent weeks would suggest that the coach is still searching for his best combinations.

In times gone by, Munster supporters would flock to Limerick for a Saturday evening European kick-off regardless of the opposition.

Thomond Park may not be the fortress it once was but a ruthless display this weekend may encourage more to return and help rebuild its fearsome reputation.

Irish Independent

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