Sunday 4 December 2016

Depleted Warriors still pose a huge threat

Brian Walsh

Published 02/10/2015 | 02:30

Munster's Denis Hurley is tackled by Finn Russell and Peter Horne of Glasgow during last season's Pro12 final
Munster's Denis Hurley is tackled by Finn Russell and Peter Horne of Glasgow during last season's Pro12 final

Gradually, the Irish World Cup campaign has built up pace, and I'm really looking forward to their clash with the Italians on Sunday.

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But while that's captured the imagination across the Irish Sea, we here at Munster welcome back Pro12 rugby to Thomond Park.

Glasgow are the reigning champions and I don't see them as 'weak' by any means - just ask Connacht. Pat Lam's men went over there with a close to full-strength squad, but Glasgow got the win.

Although they're missing the vast majority of their star names, who are away on international duty, they still pose a threat. They have a great underage structure, and like us they have equipped themselves well for a difficult part of the season.

Given that there are only two sides in Scotland, it gives them a great pool to choose from. So I don't think there is ever a good time to play Glasgow, and they will be a serious challenge for us.

We are missing a few of our own leaders too, obviously not as many as Glasgow, but the other guys in the squad must step up.

There was a big jump in competitiveness in the league last season, and you could see that straight from the kick-off again this term. There is a serious quality around the Pro12, and there will be plenty on show tonight.

It's our first competitive game in Limerick this season, and we won't forget how badly we started here last year.

Focused

We lost to Edinburgh on the opening day and we weren't too impressed when we looked back on that. So we are really focused on getting the win.

Ospreys away was a big game for us, in terms of our record over there, and losing to them twice last season. They had a good side out and it was fantastic to win that game.

The break gave us the chance to tidy up a few knocks and get extra-preparation ahead of Glasgow.

But what a difference a couple of minutes makes. To win that game right at the end had such a major impact on the following week. The guys could recover better when they had a better mentality.

This week we had a squad session together on Monday. We were split between our centres in Limerick and Cork on Tuesday. And we were back together on Wednesday for another squad day, we were split again on Thursday, and we will meet up this morning in Limerick.

The atmosphere is great around the place at the moment, and if we could make it three from three, with two wins over two big rivals, it would kick things up a level.

Similarly, Ireland will look for their third win in Pool D, against Italy. It's easy to get carried away and expect another bonus point win, but the Italians will pose the first real test for Ireland in this tournament.

Italy didn't perform against Canada, but they did show what they could do against France to an extent. They will also have captain Sergio Parisse back in their starting 15, and he's a world-class player.

But still Ireland should have enough - they have been really clinical so far and Romania never looked like causing them problems last weekend.

You are on a hiding to nothing when you play teams like that and you are expected to win easily. The key really, is that they have no major injury concerns going forward, and of course, get the win.

Ireland did both and picked up a bonus point in the process, while Keith Earls and Simon Zebo had massive performances.

Keith proved once again that he is a really sharp finisher - he took his tries really well. He was very good in the air and had some good offloads. He had a serious impact on the game and played very well. It is great to see him in such good form.

And the confidence was flowing for Simon too - look at that brilliant pass for Keith's first try.

The back three did a lot of damage against Romania. During the World Cup these things need to come together, and it presents another selection headache for Joe Schmidt.

Pool A was touted as the group of death, and it lived up to its name when Wales squeezed past England in a titanic struggle.

The English need a big performance against Australia tomorrow, and the Aussies haven't been tested yet, so who knows how that will go?

Irish Independent

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