Sunday 23 October 2016

Derby clash will tee us up perfectly for Euro games

Niall O'Donovan

Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30

Munster are delighted to have Peter O’Mahony back in time to face Isa Nacewa and Leinster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster are delighted to have Peter O’Mahony back in time to face Isa Nacewa and Leinster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

After five rounds we're certainly making headway, but this weekend kicks off the next phase - Munster-Leinster games are always a huge clash, and one thing's sure: both teams will be well tested after it.

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The rivalry between the teams has built up over the years and to be playing in front of more than 40,000 people at our national stadium is always a big day out. What adds to it is the fact that the following week we both face tough European games.

You won't get a bigger dress rehearsal than playing against Leinster in Dublin. This is one of the games that will let you know exactly where you stand.

There is usually an inter-pro game a week or two before you face into Europe and whether it is Ulster, Connacht or Leinster, they are always brilliant games as you prepare to fix the mind for the challenges that lay ahead. Nobody pulls back at this stage of the season.

Last week proved a good run-out for us too, and none of us expected such a win against a Zebre team that had impressed us.

If you don't play to your strengths against Zebre you are in for a very hard day, but thankfully we got on top early on.

We managed to force a few turnovers early in the game and we got on the front foot and scored a good try. There were one or two times there that we applied some good pressure and didn't get the results, but the effort was continuous from the lads.

What I liked most about the weekend's game was the level of consistency - they played right through the 80 minutes.


It was a great day for guys making their first Munster start, and on top of that we were delighted to get Peter O'Mahony back on the field as well.

A few of the other guys then managed to get a bit more game-time under their belts as well, players that haven't been around for pre-season, so there were a lot of positives.

Jaco Taute was one debutant, and I think we will see even more from him down the line. Just coming fresh into the team like that is always tough, but anything he did he did very well in a fine performance.

He lasted 80 minutes too and considering he hasn't played rugby for a while it was a good achievement.

That was another box ticked: we got him on the field, he played the full game and played very well. He is a very strong individual so hopefully we'll see him improve even more in the weeks ahead.

Just looking at our schedule it really is an exciting five or six weeks ahead. After Leinster, we have two Champions Cup weekends followed by Ulster in Belfast, after which we take on Ospreys and then the New Zealand Maoris.

The games are coming thick and fast now, so it will be a hectic couple of months.

Supporters will be looking closely at the teams announced later today, and I'm sure we will see a few new faces on both sides that people might be surprised to see named for such a big game.

But you always have new players coming in and talented individuals coming through the system. If someone is named in the 23 for tomorrow's game you can be guaranteed they are well worthy of their place.

In the first few weeks of the season we have seen most players in the squad get their chance and players have put their hands up for inclusion.

These lads deserve their chance to shine again and it's up to the rest of the players to force the hands of the management. Just because you are established over a five- or six-year period doesn't mean you are automatically picked.

You have to be doing the business on the field on a consistent basis. It's the same for every club in the competition.

We have been telling Rassie and Jacques about previous Munster-Leinster battles, but they can relate that back to their own derbies in South Africa. They know what to expect and they know how important this game is to the province and our supporters.

What we all want is to have the team primed and ready to make the step up in intensity for what will be needed in this game. From the games that have been played so far there has been a gradual building on the performances each week.

While you would love to be at the peak of your game for week one of the season, there is no doubt that this weekend the intensity will go up another level and we'll see both teams going full steam.

Coming down the track in Europe, you know the French and English teams will be in top form, so from here on in, it really is playing for keeps.

Irish Independent

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