Monday 5 December 2016

David Wallace: Munster's return to passionate game pays off

Axel's side need to build on that win and gather head of steam for Pro12

David Wallace

Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30

Andy Farrell will be expecting Munster to build on last weekend’s victory Photo: Sportsfile
Andy Farrell will be expecting Munster to build on last weekend’s victory Photo: Sportsfile
Head coach Anthony Foley will be expecting Munster to build on last weekend’s victory

That win was just exactly what the doctor ordered. Munster needed a big performance on the back of the previous week's defeat. And it was great to see that reaction, the way they conducted themselves, and the intensity they showed.

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It was in stark contrast to the previous week in Stade and obviously that shows how big an effect the mental game has on the top flight of sport.

A week is a long time and that was never truer than this case. You know these players have what it takes, and it is about having the mental strength the whole time - it undoubtedly will be a massive lesson for them.

People have faith in this team and the players, and especially when you put the French champions to the sword and get a bonus point.

Munster dominated Stade Francais. The opposition were only able to get a try against the run of play from an over-thrown lineout.

This sets them on the right path for the rest of the season. They have set a bar for themselves and hopefully they can stick to that. Having that consistency week in, week out is possibly the hardest part of professional sport.

Munster were bouncing, the stadium was too, but the players reflected that on the pitch. It was great to see the choke tackle back in action. And that requires work rate from one to 15.

It's great to see it back and it gives the team a boost when they do it. When you turn over the ball it's great to have possession, but also it shows that you are physically dominating the opposition.

All throughout that game Munster never looked passive, they were instigating defensive plays and not waiting for the opposition to do something. They were fast off the line, and disrupted Stade at the breakdown. That intensity can be massive.

It was a total reversal from the second half in France. It won't right Munster's European season but it's a shot in the arm going into the Pro12. Against Treviso they have a big chance to get that bonus point and possibly finish second in the pool, because Leicester will want a win in France and they still have something to play for.

In terms of personal performances, CJ Stander was immense again. He has been so solid for Munster since he came, and has probably brought it to another level this season. With Anthony Foley, it has been invaluable in helping him along.

Involved

There is an argument as to why he wasn't more involved enough in his first season, but injuries might have curtailed him slightly, and he has been brilliant since.

It certainly throws the cat amongst the pigeons in the Irish set-up. But Peter O'Mahony and Iain Henderson's injury have made it a little easier on Joe Schmidt's selection in the back-row. And either way it will be a rock-solid Irish back-row in the Six Nations.

He will probably play at blind-side. Sean O'Brien has played at No 7 and there is no reason to change him. You now have three who can play a lot of positions in the back-row. They all have strong breakdown, ball-carrying and defensive games, and they are all leaders, and potential captains.

I wouldn't like to have to choose who is left out because there are also a whole other raft of potential back-rowers putting their hands up at the moment.

But provincially Munster take on Treviso this weekend and you would like to see that momentum carried on. There is a real outside possibility that they could get through but it is unlikely, so they want to go into the Zebre game with confidence.

They need to keep that intensity, keep the ball rolling and build on the Stade win. Unfortunately, you are never too far from the highs and lows so they need to nurture that mindset from the weekend, and remember the pain of the previous weekend.

This weekend's game throws up a different psychological battle. Treviso are bottom of the Pro12 and at the bottom of Pool 4 for a reason, and Munster will have to get back those levels from last week against a team they are expected to beat.

They will give Treviso due respect but they need to go down there to win this game and then push for the bonus point.

Irish Independent

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