David Wallace explains why it will be 'hell for leather' at the Aviva tomorrow
Step-up in class is the perfect preparation for Champions Cup
Munster put in a really good second-half display against Cardiff Blues last weekend and, with so many players still feeling their way back in, it was a comprehensive display ahead of their biggest match so far this season.
The returning players will generally need game-time to get up to speed with things because they are coming in off a pre-season where everything is focused around bulking up and being physically prepped for the challenges of the season ahead.
When you spend seven or eight weeks of pre-season in your fitness and heavy lifting phase, the majority of the focus is on that rather than the skills. We used to do weight sessions in the morning, and in the afternoon you might do a skill session. Your coordination was always a bit off.
It is the same when you are coming back to actual game-time and you bulked up a bit, your skills and motor functions will suffer as a result. It takes a week or two to come back, but the muscle memory is always there. You have to get used to the contact, the calls and plays, in the heat of battle too, so it's a big difference to pre-season.
Training will never be at match intensity, and you need to play a game to experience that. So it's good to get the British & Irish Lions contingent back in with a good win under their belts.
It's no surprise the first half wasn't as clinical as Munster would have wanted, but in the second half they finished things off strongly.
They went for the jugular and it was very important to do it when they got their chance. A lot did rest on that yellow card but fair play to John Ryan, Niall Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne, they scrummaged well, and forced the indiscretion.
It was fantastic to see JJ Hanrahan get two tries in his first game back too. There was massive disappointment for Munster fans and players, and JJ himself, to have such a strong talent go abroad so early in his career.
But it's great to have him back now, and what an impact he made. He got onto Rory Scannell's shoulder and with his first touch he scorched over, and he scored another a few minutes later. He got the pass off Ian Keatley and his acceleration put him through.
The distribution skills, zippy and accurate passing in the second half really helped Munster to get those scores. When there was space they really exploited it and took their opportunities.
It's a massive blow to lose Jaco Taute. He is a fantastic player and contributed so much last year. His centre pairing with Chris Farrell was so dominant up until now. So it's great to have JJ coming in but he is just new into the squad. Rory Scannell certainly did impress the last day and that is a real positive.
It would have been a tight call in terms of who was going to play in the centre.
But when one injury comes early in the season, and you get another injury, you are going down deeper into the squad and it could get sticky. A large part of the success this season will come down to the injury profile of the team.
This weekend it's all eyes on Leinster and a huge game for both provinces.
With the three guys coming back in last weekend, there wasn't much time to get up to speed. But this game sharpens the mind and it's easier to come back in these bigger games.
You have no time to be thinking about anything else, you have to get on with the game and play the best you can. You have to be 100 per cent from minute one, and it's massive for momentum going into Europe.
The intensity will certainly be on par a Champions Cup game. A win or even just a very good performance would be brilliant going forward into Europe.
Leinster have had a couple of sub-par weekends so they might be lacking a bit of confidence. It could be an opportunity, but they will raise their game for Munster. And they too will see it as a great chance to build confidence.
Of course home advantage will be key but this game takes on a life of its own anyway.
If you are vying for a place in an Irish squad, these games will be heavily weighted, 50/50 calls are often decided on them. It will be hell for leather in Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
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