Confidence soars and wins accumulate
More of the same will see Munster threaten Maoris at Thomond
Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30
It's brilliant to see teams playing to their potential, and Munster and Ireland have found their inner-belief and are realising their capabilities.
It was a really, really good display from Munster against Ospreys last weekend. Peter O'Mahony has started to hit form and Jaco Taute has been an incredible acquisition, and the other players are full of confidence too.
Ian Keatley was great when he came onto the field. It is going through the squad like a wildfire, it's contagious, this form, confidence and belief which in no small way has been instigated by very sad and tragic circumstances.
The performance against Glasgow, the win up at Ulster, and now the latest triumph - they all point to a team on a mission.
Ospreys were missing ten of their Welsh contingent for the game, but they were still able to put Dragons to the sword with a very similar squad the week before.
Munster's grit and determination was typified by the performance of Dave Kilcoyne - if ever there was an all-round display, this was it.
He put in carries and massive work-rate. It's an incredibly hard thing to be that good as a ball-carrier, and still dominate the rucks and mauls, and the scrums and lineouts. He did well and that was reflected with his call-up to the Irish squad, and likewise with Darren Sweetnam.
The events of recent weeks have matured the squad. They have become men almost overnight, and they have taken grasp of what Axel really meant to them. You can see with the tone of the interviews, they are still in a bit of shock, but they are playing out of their skins to honour Axel.
Everyone in the squad is giving 100 per cent, and that gives the players massive belief and energy. You wouldn't want to be coming up against Munster any time soon.
It's a one-off Test game as such, against the Maori this weekend. You can look at it in that light, but for Munster it's hugely important.
Everyone remembers the game against New Zealand in 2008, and the Australia game too. These contests are about pride in the crest and that's what Munster are playing for.
The Maori put USA to the sword last weekend, although USA were missing a lot of players, it was still a very accomplished display from the Maori. Kane Hames, Akira Ioane and Rieko Ioane were particular stand-outs.
It's going to be a passionate match, and it will be an unbelievable atmosphere, especially considering it sold out early in the week.
Munster will take a lot of heart and insight from the way Ireland beat the All Blacks last weekend. You have to be clinical and disciplined when you face off against high-calibre opposition and a repeat would be great.
New Zealand were a little bit out of the mentality of Test match week and possibly slightly distracted, but certainly Ireland wouldn't have had that complacency. The memory of Axel was a big factor for Ireland, and they started the game as they finished it.
The intensity in defence was amazing, and they had very few unforced errors. Ireland played clinical rugby at a high tempo, while New Zealand were waiting for the lull to come. It did come but Ireland held their nerve and fought back.
There were some fantastic performances, and Conor Murray's display was arguably the best No 9 performance I have seen. He was immense and truly is world-class.
All of the Munster guys were impressive - Simon Zebo's catch in the air was an X-factor moment. Donnacha Ryan and CJ Stander were sublime and big instigators too, but it's hard to single out guys.
It was historic and needed a monumental performance, better than Ireland have ever played. The All Blacks were shell-shocked at the end, and I have never seen New Zealand to lose their composure like that. They didn't know what to do, they didn't know how to handle it and it's a massive confidence boost for Ireland.
Hopefully Ireland can take this forward, just like Munster have been doing recently. It's all about confidence, momentum and belief and both sides must tap into that.