Wednesday 28 September 2016

David Wallace: Game in hand must be won

Points are crucial from tricky trip to the Welsh capital

David Wallace

Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30

Munster’s Ronan O’Mahony and Ian Keatley take a rest on some tackle pads at the end of training Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster’s Ronan O’Mahony and Ian Keatley take a rest on some tackle pads at the end of training Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Munster are back in Pro12 action this evening and it's such an important game given the context. Munster have been hanging their hat on this one for a while now, and if they can convert their game-in-hand into points, and a much-needed win, it would propel them right back into the mix.

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There are only four teams involved this weekend; Glasgow and Leinster play in the other fixture, and Munster cannot afford to lose ground in the race for the top four.

Although Cardiff are well down the table, this is going to be a really difficult fixture, especially at Cardiff Arms Park. Connacht and Ulster both lost there, and Leinster were lucky to win there so it's going to be very difficult.

But you would hope that Munster have much more at stake and that will drive them on. Munster are looking to get into that top four, while Cardiff are nearly out of the race for Champions Cup.

From here on in Anthony Foley will be looking for top performances from some of his more experienced players. This is when they need to stand up and lead the guys.

The experienced heads would have been through these scenarios before and they know how to react when things might not go their way. Munster can ill-afford to see results go against them though.

Munster still have games to come against Zebre, Leinster, Connacht, Edinburgh and Scarlets so it won't be an easy run-in for them. They need all of the momentum they can get and another win would give the players more much-needed confidence.

It has been a tough season at times for Munster, but things seem to be going right for them at the right end of it. Although they're out of Europe, they are still in with a big chance of Pro12 silverware.

When they were knocked out of the Champions Cup after the pool stage and they lost a few games on the trot in the Pro12 they didn't expect to be in contention with six games remaining.

The Munster players need to believe they can get something out of the season, and after all of the players that were blooded it could be a lot more fruitful next term.

Tonic

Meanwhile, Ireland really did what they needed to do against Italy, the win was a tonic boost considering how the first two games went, but the manner of the victory was even more pleasing.

It's great to see Ireland play that way and they exposed all of the weaknesses in the Italian rearguard. Italy were missing a few players and that didn't help their cause but Ireland got the job done in style.

The tries just flowed, and it wasn't until late on, when Kelly Haimona came on, that Italy got any sort of a foothold. They got two tries in the latter stages, but before that their half-back pairing lacked invention.

Usually the benches weaken teams, but with Ireland too, their replacements made a serious impact. Ian Madigan got his try, as did Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin had a huge role in their attack, he also dotted down.

The younger guys continue to get their chance to shine, and again Josh van der Flier contributed brilliantly. His plays with a maturity beyond his years, and when you consider that he isn't the biggest openside around he always makes those hard yards. Even against Sergio Parisse he was blasting over the gain-line and giving his team-mates great go-forward ball.

It was a great team performance though too and Ireland will be buoyed by that going into the Scottish match. This is a completely different task now, as we saw from what Scotland did to France. They are a much better side in this Six Nations, and I don't see it being the same result as it was on the last day of the Championship last term.

Scotland are fresh off the back of two wins now, and for years they have struggled in the Six Nations but they seem to be finding their feet. Before this they always fought hard but could never get over the line. All that has changed.

They will believe that they have all of the momentum coming into this game and Vern Cotter will have his players really pumped up for it. They will have no fear of facing Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Irish Independent

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