Thursday 29 September 2016

Everything in place for Reds to kick on

New training centre and fresh coaching set-up lift hopes for season

David Wallace

Published 02/09/2016 | 02:30

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus (left) and head coach Anthony Foley at training in UL Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus (left) and head coach Anthony Foley at training in UL Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Munster have had a good start to the new season with two warm-up victories, and putting Premiership side Worcester to the sword was a real confidence booster ahead of their season opener this weekend.

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The likes of Tyler Bleyendaal and Ronan O'Mahony performed well, with James Cronin returning in the pack and a few new-look combinations around the pitch.

Scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation with John Lacey Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation with John Lacey Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

The new coaching set-up is very experienced and they bring a lot of structure. That is the way Rassie Erasmus seems to work.

Then when it comes to defence, the players will see more of Jacques Nienaber on the training pitch and by all accounts he is a very competent guy and that bodes very well. Last season the defence was a bit disjointed at times and it's great to see someone of his experience coming in. I'm really excited about that.

Then you have the new centre at UL, and that is going to be brilliant. I don't think the players realise how much of a benefit it's going to be.

You hear anecdotes of guys who have played for Munster for years, but wouldn't have been in each other's houses until now. They are now socialising a bit more off the field, they have more time together and that's a big thing for the bond within the team.

In team sports, it's all about building that unity within the group, and with the greater relationships players will understand each other on the field of play too.

On the other side of it you get through a massive amount of organisational work and the fact you are not stuck in a car a lot of the time trying to meet up somewhere in between can only help.

Your body doesn't seize up and you have less time on the road. Hopefully those two things can have a big influence on Munster's season.

There is no doubt in my mind that this group of Munster players are well capable of producing something brilliant on their day.

And these changes can be massive for their future. That is another hurdle taken out of the way, and you would expect them to progress further this season despite having new structures in place with a new coach coming in.

Freshness

The players will want to impress, and it adds a bit of freshness to the set-up. The South Africans will bring in a number of different philosophies from overseas and the players will benefit from that.

The way they played the warm-up games was encouraging, and there is a real sense of positivity around it. Supporters have responded to that and expectations are increasing again.

It's going to really difficult in Europe in a tough pool but if they can get a good start to the season they'll be confident they can qualify, and from there who knows?

In the Pro12 you would expect Munster to get back towards the top and to really compete for a top-four spot. But it's a really tough game to begin with, away to Scarlets tomorrow. The Welsh are always a really hard side to play against and especially at home in the opening game of the season.

They are going out to prove a point and have recruited well in the summer, with Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell coming in. In the last few years they have become very competitive and it's going to a tough one to begin the campaign on.

A tricky match like this, depending on the result can have a couple of different effects on the team. It builds character in the side and a win over there would be the ideal start to the season. A win in the opening round is always massive for the confidence levels of the players and would be a great start for Erasmus too.

But defeat in Wales and Munster will be under pressure ahead of the games against Cardiff and Dragons.

I have full faith in this team, and what looks like a really smart set-up now with the introduction of the new coaches and the move to Limerick.

Munster look to be a province on the up and after only scraping a direct Champions Cup qualification spot last term they could do much better in 2016-17.

A win tomorrow and they are on their way, but it certainly won't be easy.

I just want it to get going now.

Irish Independent

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