Friday 28 April 2017

Massive test ahead against hungry Scots

Warriors will push Rassie's ruthless squad all the way in search of glory

CJ Stander runs in Munster's second try in Paris last weekend Photo: Sportsfile
CJ Stander runs in Munster's second try in Paris last weekend Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Munster put in another extraordinary performance last weekend against Racing 92, but they will need to improve further if they want to beat Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun tomorrow.

Munster were ruthless but it could have been even worse for the Parisians at Stade Yves-du-Manoir. Munster rightly took a couple of penalties, one at the start where it deserved more, and one after they scored their try.

James Hart will offer Munster something different with his likely return from France Photo: AFP/Getty Images
James Hart will offer Munster something different with his likely return from France Photo: AFP/Getty Images

They might have left three or four tries behind them in the first half and a few chances in the second as well. But Munster came with a smart game-plan and they kicked the ball long in behind Racing and trusted their kick-chase and fitness. They were composed in defence and looked together as a unit.

You could see Racing 92 didn't want to have the ball and were frustrated in attack. They had lost three games and were never going to be on top form. But they still have a squad that is impressive. Racing 92 effectively have two teams so it's not like there is a huge drop-off in standard.

You could tell the guys who came on made an impression towards the end of the game. But Munster took off a number of their guys too. They drew the second half but Munster had done their damage before half-time. If Munster played them at the start of the competition it may have been a different game but that's immaterial.

The game in Paris was a great example of the many kicking options Munster have. When you factor in the others alongside Tyler Bleyendaal, you have Conor Murray and Simon Zebo as two fantastic kicking options, while Rory Scannell fills the second five-eighth role perfectly.

His brother, Niall, is coming on leaps and bounds now; he took his try well and his lineout darts were good. The set-piece along with the maul, and maul defence, were very good like they always are and that is the building block for Munster's success.

You look at the squad, there is such a great strength in depth in it going forward, and I have no doubt they will qualify and will be so difficult to beat in the latter stages.

Competition

Although you can't read too much into Racing 92, Glasgow will be a much bigger test. Munster need stiff competition to put them through the mill at this stage of the season, and that will toughen them up.

Glasgow on an all-weather pitch will be as hard as it gets for this Munster defence. With Stuart Hogg in the back-field, the angles he cuts and his attacking threat makes him very potent and Glasgow are a great counter-attacking team.

They have a solid midfield with Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar and that partnership is central to everything Glasgow do.

Glasgow are on an upward curve now, and we saw it in the Pro12 where Munster were lucky to beat them with an Ian Keatley drop-goal late on earlier in the season. The Champions Cup will raise the stakes and they will be harder to beat over there.

But this is such a massive game, and it can bring Munster one step closer to a home quarter-final. You look from outside, people are saying Munster will get a four-try bonus point at home against Racing. That will put them in charge of their destiny, so even a losing bonus point puts them in a good position, although Munster won't be thinking about that - they crave a home quarter-final.

It's great to hear more and more names being linked to the province, and especially Irish-qualified talent like James Hart. He has been raved about down in France. Although he fell out of favour in Racing 92, he was brilliant with Grenoble and he offers something different as he is able to take the kicks.

The Munster squad looks phenomenal. Keith Earls and Francis Saili couldn't even make the starting 15 at the weekend. Rhys Marshall, Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer didn't start in the front-row.

James Cronin and Niall Scannell will be pushing for international places again soon, and John Ryan has played fantastic rugby this season. And with guys like Donnacha Ryan and of course the serial man of the match winner CJ Stander stepping up, Munster have potential for silverware, but first they have a stern test in Scotstoun.

Irish Independent

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