Friday 20 October 2017

Gutsy win has Rassie's troops in flying form

Squad depth has been vital in the last few weeks as youth shines

Wallace: You have to feel sorry for Ian Keatley who left the field injured after controlling so much of the game. Photo: Sportsfile
Wallace: You have to feel sorry for Ian Keatley who left the field injured after controlling so much of the game. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

It was crucial that Munster got back to winning ways before the Six Nations window, and they gave a magnificent display in their victory over Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park last weekend. Hopefully Ireland can do likewise this evening.

But Munster showed true character in overcoming the disappointment they would have felt from what happened against Scarlets at Thomond Park in the previous round.

Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile

It was another win away from home too, to complete the full set over the Welsh teams in their own backyards, this season. 

The majority of those games were won in the last five or ten minutes, and that was the pattern followed in Cardiff last week too. There is a similar theme throughout these displays, and it was another drop-goal from Rory Scannell that was the decisive blow, before Conor Oliver did the rest. 

How many times have we seen that this year with drop-goals away from home? It's about having the guts to go for it where other teams often don't. And from the other side of things it's very hard to play against a team like that, who never know when they are beaten. Munster never accept defeat and that just speaks volumes of their character. 

You have to feel sorry for Ian Keatley because he was controlling the game before he had to leave the field injured. It's difficult when a team loses their starting out-half, but Rory Scannell moved in and stepped up to the plate. 

He wouldn't have been training there all week, and hasn't played a lot there this year. The various changes from Keatley's departure did disrupt Munster's flow for a bit but they found a way to cope, and did well to settle into an unfamiliar pattern. 

Defensively, they were excellent against Cardiff - Cardiff's only try was an intercept against the run of play, and Munster controlled a lot of the game. 

But Cardiff's defence was also exemplary. That was the theme of the game - both defences coming out on top and forcing turnovers. Munster created an awful lot of chances, like they did against Scarlets, but they came with a late drive to win this one, which is a real lift.

IMPRESSIVE Fineen Wycherley came on and was really impressive. For a 19-year-old, he doesn't look young and his attitude and work-rate was fantastic - he is a big prospect and could have 20 years of professional rugby left ahead of him. I've no doubt he will break into the Ireland set-up too.

Ireland have one of the trickiest Six Nations games ahead of them this weekend - you don't know how it will go. Those Friday night kick-offs, where the crowd is on fire, it is a very different atmosphere and more fanfare than Ireland are used to - it's their first Friday night Six Nations game.

You hope they don't get distracted by that and I'm sure Joe Schmidt will have them well clued in. Wales are craving a victory after the defeat to Scotland, and any side that are hurting like that are always a huge threat.

But their confidence will be down at the moment, and if Ireland can keep the scoreboard ticking over and get some separation, the confidence will be dented even further. 

With the way Ireland are playing I find it difficult to see them losing in Cardiff. Up front, Ireland will have way too much for Wales. The Irish scrum is a real strength and it can be a weakness for the Welsh.

Ireland will be up against a good back-row in Wales, but they don't have the ball-carrying capabilities of Ireland. The likes of a Justin Tipuric or Sam Warburton won't get you across the gain-line as often as a CJ Stander, Seán O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip would.

In the other big fixture this weekend, an in-form Scotland side are well capable of pulling off a shock against England at Twickenham.

Scotland are on the up, and England are clinging on to their winning run. Will they have enough to see it through to next weekend in the Aviva Stadium? Only time will tell.

England will probably come in a bit complacent and I'm sure Scotland will let the shackles free and play some free-flowing rugby. It's an intriguing prospect.

Irish Independent

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