Saturday 22 October 2016

An efficient display can reap rewards

If Foley's boys wipe out errors, they could leave with the points

David Wallace

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Keith Earls in training (Sportsfile)
Keith Earls in training (Sportsfile)
CJ Stander shows his war wounds (Sportsfile)

Munster would have been very disappointed to lose their first of the back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures at home to Leicester last weekend, but there were plenty of positives to be taken despite the scoreline.

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A win over at Welford Road and Munster will be back competing for the top spot in the pool; it would change the whole feeling around the province and would put Munster's campaign back on track.

It would give them a massive boost going back into Pro12 action too, and ahead of a big game against Leinster, Munster need all the momentum they can get.

But the Champions Cup will be the only thing on their minds this weekend. It wouldn't be the first time Munster have been in this scenario and come out of it on the right side of the result.

Munster have won before and with their backs to the wall it's the ideal chance to go and spring a surprise. If they bring the same intensity and add a bit more composure in the green zone, they could have Leicester on the ropes.

I think Munster rushed things a little at Thomond Park on Saturday, they were fast out the gate but were not able to convert their dominance to points on the board. They were camped deep in Leicester territory but a few sloppy errors cost them.

When you play against a team of such quality as Leicester, you cannot afford to cough up try-scoring opportunities. Munster were trying to force things, and the knock-ons followed. It's crucial that they keep their heads if they find themselves in the same position at Welford Road.

It was disappointing too that the momentum of the game swung on a refereeing decision too. I'm sure looking back on it Romain Poite will recognise the mistake he made, but it cost Munster a penalty and instead put Leicester into the Munster half of the field.

But even from there Munster should never have conceded that first try. The Leicester rolling maul is a solid unit, but Munster were caught out and they will have put plenty of work into that this week. They cannot let teams dominate them in that area of the game.

It's hard to know who was at fault in the lineout for Mike Fitzgerald's try, whether it was the thrower or the lifter. But when you are in your own red zone you need to get the ball in, and out as quickly and efficiently as possible. From there Munster had left themselves with a lot to do after the break, without making too many defensive errors.


Their defence was a cause for concern in the games earlier on this season, but that part of their game has really been worked on. And you could see the results against Leicester because they were really solid. The only problem is, when you play a top English Premiership side like that and you make one error, it gets highlighted.

Ben Youngs made the Munster defence look very average when he caught them napping in the second half, albeit from a turnover ball. But if the defence front up against Leicester this time, and eliminate that type of error from their game, they won't be far off coming away with a positive result.

The players need to start realising their talent all over again this weekend. Munster certainly haven't become a bad team overnight, and in terms of the Champions Cup they are still in with a massive chance of making it out of the pool stages.

But Munster cannot make any silly errors from here on. Their confidence has been zapped in recent weeks, with three defeats in a row against Connacht, Dragons and Leicester. But it's very possible they could go to Welford Road on Sunday and come away with a win.

Stranger things have happened, and Munster know they have a big performance from their talented squad. But guys like CJ Stander, Robin Copeland and Donnacha Ryan need to have big games.

There is such a fantastic backline in their ranks too, it's just waiting for the combinations to click and then they'll get a few tries on the board again.

Who knows? It could be this game against Leicester when it all goes right. The English were flattered by that scoreline last weekend; they were not 12 points better than Munster and I hope the guys can prove that.

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