Thursday 23 February 2017

We'll need to be at our best to see off Warriors

Rassie Erasmus

Wing Ronan O’Mahony scores Munster’s fifth try in the demolition of Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Wing Ronan O’Mahony scores Munster’s fifth try in the demolition of Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile

Although being top of the Guinness Pro12 table is a nice place to be, we are not fooled. We are realistic about the challenges that we face in the weeks and months to come, and we know that holding on to that standing will be an even better achievement than getting there in the first place.

Coming from the southern hemisphere, this time of the year is traditionally when we are planning our holidays away from rugby. The club game closes down; the provincial game is dormant for the winter; and the international matches have also finished up. It's a time for working on our sun tans.

In comparison the next two months will be the most busy and difficult schedule you could imagine. Tonight we start with a really tough away trip to Scotstoun to face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12.

We follow that with two Champions Cup games against Leicester Tigers, at home and away; then we have the Christmas interpros against Leinster and Connacht; before we have three more Champions Cup games against Racing 92 on two occasions and Glasgow Warriors again. It is an awesome challenge, but it is one we are very excited by.

If you put last week's game against Treviso into the equation, we will have nine games in the space of eight weeks, but to start that run with a win like we had at Thomond Park was a solid enough performance.

We have to note that Treviso were weakened because of the international window, but I was very happy with the way we went about playing. We gave them plenty of respect starting off, weathered the storm that they threw at us and then we took control.

Comebacks

Again, I was very happy with some of our younger and less experienced players who did so well. And it was also great to see Dave Foley, Jean Kleyn and Sammy Arnold making their comebacks from injury - although Sammy picked up another knock, but we are hopeful for his recovery.

After we introduced all of our replacements, it took a little time for the game to settle, but we finished well with Ronan O'Mahony and Alex Wootton scoring tries in the final quarter.

In the last few weeks we were all very happy to see so many Munster players representing Ireland in the November Series, so to be able to welcome some of them back into the squad last week was a bonus.

The first caps won by Billy Holland, John Ryan and Jack O'Donoghue have given a real lift to everyone in the squad and being able to reintroduce them to the team was a real positive ahead of the next two months.

We have had a few more of the Ireland lads back around the squad this week and they will be gradually brought back into the team in compliance with the player welfare protocols, but it can only be of benefit to us when our guys are testing themselves against - and beating - the best teams in the world.

We will spend a week away from our beloved Thomond Park this weekend, but we will be back in a week's time for what is a vital game against Leicester.

Even last weekend when it wasn't full, the supporters generated such a buzz and they played their part in the bonus-point win.

The thoughts of returning to a likely sold-out full house next week is an exciting one for everyone.

Tonight, though, we face one of the toughest tests of the year against Glasgow. They will be hurt after losing at home last weekend, and they will be keen to pick up vital points in the Pro12 race.

Gregor Townsend will have a strong side out, and it is up to us to maintain our current standards and hunger for the battle.

Irish Independent

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