Sunday 20 August 2017

Young guns turn up heat on senior stars

Stand-ins' form gives Erasmus welcome headache ahead of semi-final

The likes of Dan Goggin will have the match-fitness to hit the ground running should Munster need the youngsters at the business end of the season. Photo: Sportsfile
The likes of Dan Goggin will have the match-fitness to hit the ground running should Munster need the youngsters at the business end of the season. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Last Saturday's win and performance against Connacht spoke volumes about Munster's strength and depth, and emerging talent - four of the victorious B&I Cup winning side started the game in Thomond Park.

They are coming through and stepping up to the plate. I know Connacht were out of the running in the Guinness Pro12, and focusing on the Champions Cup play-offs, but to put up a score like that, no matter what the circumstances, bodes well for going into the semi-final.

Connacht beat Munster twice last season. It's obvious that the change in mentality, confidence and ability in Munster has helped them to develop. The difference between this year and last is profound.

Connacht won the Pro12 last season, and they were very impressive then. They and Munster have moved in opposite directions

Hope

But Connacht can also take hope from how they turned things around last year. Considering Munster are a totally different side in this campaign, it shows things can change rapidly.

A lot of this is based on confidence, momentum, and getting into the habit of not accepting defeat. Munster certainly have that in bucket-loads right now. 

Munster are not only winning matches but they are playing scintillating rugby.

When you see Tyler Bleyendaal getting player of the season, it shows how fickle the sport can be.

Munster haven't had much of his services in recent seasons, but now with him back on the pitch, he has led from the front and steered the ship brilliantly all season.

The academy and development players are stepping up to the plate as well, and that gives everyone confidence and cause to look over their shoulders.

Nobody is certain of their positions and they are constantly pushing themselves to contribute to the team.

Connacht could have been a very tricky game for Munster. They could have had their foot off the pedal, but that's why it was so important to have a lot of young guys in there, and no-one had an air of complacency.

That game will stand to the Munster squad. You expect a senior selection out against Ospreys in Thomond Park, but you never know who may need to be called upon as the season finishes.

The likes of Dan Goggin and Conor Oliver could be set for game-time in the play-offs, and they certainly have the match fitness to hit the ground running.

It's a great place to be, where you have not only your perceived first team playing very well, but also the guys coming up from behind looking to make their mark any chance they get.

The guys got a few days off this week and with no match this weekend, they can focus on the Pro12 play-off semi-final week with a fresh minds and bodies.

Finishing top will be a massive plus when it comes to the final four. It gives them that bit of confidence, and to finish with 19 wins out of the 22 is very impressive.

They had one more point than the victorious Munster team from 2010-11, which is another positive for the current crop.

Munster have met Ospreys on plenty of occasions in the semi-finals, so there is a big history there. Scarlets put Ospreys to the sword last weekend, and that is another reason you want to finish top of the pile.

Finishing a point above Leinster means they get to avoid Scarlets now, and it gives them the momentum going into the semi-finals.

Motivating

You get the sense it will be a big few weeks ahead for Munster, and I'm sure that losing their Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at Aviva Stadium will be another massive motivating factor and step up on the learning curve.

The return of Conor Murray is another big bonus, as so much of the game-plan is based around his strengths. Even with a squad with packed full of talented players it's crucial Munster's get their best 15 out on the field in the semi-final.

And it could be another massive occasion in Aviva Stadium later this month, where Leinster could be awaiting Munster in the final.

Irish Independent

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