Tuesday 27 September 2016

David Wallace: Holland ready to solve No 10 problems

Playmaking axis with Murray and Scannell hints at bright future

David Wallace

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

Johnny Holland came of age on the big stage last weekend Photo: Sportsfile
Johnny Holland came of age on the big stage last weekend Photo: Sportsfile
The future is bright with Bill Johnston coming through the Munster ranks Photo: Sportsfile

It was such a pity to miss out on at least a draw from that game last weekend, Munster deserved more and it was an unfortunate ending to the game.

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Every point is so valuable at this time of the season and hopefully that result doesn't come back to bite Munster. But there were plenty of positives to take from that display.

The defence was fantastic, especially in the first half. Leinster had absolutely no joy for a long time when Munster soaked up the pressure on every occasion around their ten-metre line. But fair play to Johnny Sexton, he took advantage of some quick ball which left Munster disorganised around the breakdown.

But defence hasn't been one of Munster's strengths this season and to tighten up like that it must have been very pleasing for all involved, especially the amount of dominant hits.

Boiled

Munster have been great in attack for much of 2015-16 but it all boiled down to the final few minutes and a few errors cost them.

Players need to trust their skill-set a bit more when they find themselves in advanced positions, with the game at stake in the final quarter. There were a few sloppy decisions made, and if one or two balls had gone to hand the result could have been different.

But they didn't and Munster lost; the draw was there for the taking but they have to move on for their final three games against Connacht, Edinburgh and Scarlets.

There were some standout displays in Aviva Stadium, and that is something to build on.

The obvious star was Johnny Holland. I've talked about his potential before, but he surprised even me last weekend. I couldn't believe how he just seemed to come of age and perform on the big stage.

I remember when Conor Murray came into the Munster team, you could see that he was just so composed on the ball. He went about his game, did the basics things well and nothing fazed him. He played with a coolness beyond his years, and at 24, Holland is displaying the same characteristics.

Holland seems to be in control of his game; from what I have seen of him, he doesn't get flustered, he's so measured in what he does. And the best example of his sheer class was when how he scored the try. He dusted himself off, got right back up, placed the kicking tee, almost on the sideline, and slotted a fantastic conversion.

When you think of a possible axis between Murray, Holland and Rory Scannell, it really is very promising for the future of Munster. If the two younger guys are given more game-time with Murray it will add to their repertoire. They have been a breath of fresh air this season, and the added experience of Murray could really pay dividends if it's given a chance to blossom.

But they need to get the chance to flourish together. And with only three games left this season they need to be put in there, in the thick of it. Scannell has been showing it all season, and last weekend Holland backed up the claims that he could be the answer to all of Munster's problems at No 10.

For a number of years now Munster have been looking for the answer there; no-one has really come and taken command of that jersey since Ronan O'Gara retired, and Holland could be that man.

Young Bill Johnston is coming through too, so the future is definitely bright.

But for the present, Munster have a week to prepare for a must-win game against in-form Connacht.

Desperation

Never have Munster gone to the Sportsground with so much at stake, and hopefully their desperation will lead to a big performance on the field.

Realistically there is a lot more at stake for Munster, and that could give them the advantage, but Connacht can cause them plenty of problems. Luckily Pat Lam's side are playing in Europe this weekend, and that might have an impact on their performance in Galway next weekend.

Not just physically, but mentally too, Connacht could be a little drained after another huge clash, a Challenge Cup quarter-final. The stakes are high for them against Grenoble, if they win they get a home semi-final so they are likely to go all out there.

Irish Independent

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