Monday 5 December 2016

David Wallace: CJ Stander will be huge hit for Ireland

Munster and Ireland will see benefits from his certain promotion

David Wallace

Published 06/11/2015 | 02:30

CJ Stander in action during Munster training
CJ Stander in action during Munster training
BJ Botha gets in some passing practice at training in Cork IT earlier this week

Rugby went into overdrive last weekend - Munster took care of business in the first inter-pro of the season and New Zealand were simply awesome.

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All of that coupled with the birth of my nephew Harry. He was born on Friday, so congratulations Richard and Elaine!

Last Friday was also the day when CJ Stander became eligible to play for Ireland and that could be a massive step in the right direction for Irish Rugby.

For about two years now, he has been Munster's star performer up front, and arguably the most consistent player in the panel. At just 25 he will be a massive asset to Ireland this season, and he will surely be called up to the next training camp.

When you lose a player of Paul O'Connell's calibre, you need all of the help you can get, and right away Ireland have a player who can break the gainline every time, and Stander is prolific in his try-scoring too.

It will also be of huge benefit to work with Joe Schmidt. His tactical nous can only aid the development of the player, and in turn that will be a big positive for the province.

He had another tremendous display in Round 6 of the Pro12 as Munster made it five wins for the campaign, and in doing so, they got a crucial win over Ulster.

On the whole, the defence was really improved in that game. They conceded a bit, but the first try was a breakaway, the second was a rolling maul and another was towards the end of the game.

Munster will be happy to sit third, but the slight concern remains over their concession of points. That needs to be sorted out.

Their points' difference of 18 says it all. If you have five wins on the board the difference should be much higher. The Munster defence has leaked too many scores, 132 points, and you need to go down as far as Dragons in eighth to get a team worse off.

Intricate

But they still won their games and the backline has shown some intricate running lines to rack up the tries.

It was great to see Gerhard van den Heever and Denis Hurley both get over because they have been dogged by injury recently, and Tomás O'Leary looks reborn - he got man of the match.

On that same night, South Africa overwhelmed a tired Argentina in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off, and then on Saturday we saw just how good this All Blacks side are.

They have been labelled the best team of all time, and then at the end of the best World Cup we got treated to a fantastic final. From the outset New Zealand dominated, it looked as though they would run away with it, but to Australia's credit they didn't let them.

The Wallabies came right back into it, and if it wasn't for New Zealand's and Dan Carter's class the result could have been different. But he was the difference, and I thought he was deserving of his World Player of the Year award.

I did my own player cam for about 30 seconds at one stage in the game, for whatever reason the Aussies went down his channel every time. But he repelled them with three solid tackles which typifies his work rate.

But the Pro12 is the main focus this weekend with Europe just around the corner. Munster cannot afford any injuries, because there is a lot of players that still have to get used to the system.

Edinburgh at Murrayfield is far from ideal. It's such a difficult place to go to, and the strange atmosphere over there can put teams off. Having to travel never helps either and for a big game like this against a decent side, Munster need to be professional.

If Munster have ambitions of challenging for the Pro12 title again this term, they need to pick up points on the road against sides like Edinburgh, and I think they will.

Paul O'Connell is gone but he's definitely not forgotten, and I think he has left a big legacy there behind him, something that the guys in the lineout can feed off. If they get that right, along with the scrum it will go a long way to winning in Scotland.

With the way Munster play, if they can plug a few gaps and continue to score, it could be a long and fruitful season yet.

Irish Independent

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