Sunday 17 December 2017

Ger Gilroy: Munster rebuild looks the part

Good form: Simon Zebo, left, and Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Good form: Simon Zebo, left, and Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile

Ger Gilroy

Munster are back. It was premature to declare it after the Glasgow game given the emotional nature of the day. The come-from-behind defeat of Ulster at Ravenhill next up had Old School tattooed on its biceps.

Roll it on six weeks later and there's five more successive wins including two shut-out bonus-pointers plus a scraggly late drop goal win in Glasgow. They've done it every which way. Add in a routine win over the New Zealand Maori and it's safe to declare Munster are back. Thomond Park is coming back too and we'd missed it.

It's not just a simple emotional response to the heartbreak they've suffered, this is built on deep foundations. The modern game isn't won on pure emotion. The opportunity to have a settled pack with most of their front-line players injury-free means we're finally seeing them fulfil the potential of Stander, O'Mahony and O'Donnell in the back-row, not to mention some depth in the front-row. With Donnacha Ryan fit too it's suddenly the grizzled aggressive technical pack we know and love Munster for.

After a series of injuries had rendered Tyler Bleyendaal something of a mystery for Munster and Irish rugby fans we're finally seeing what he's capable of.

It looks effortless and brave, a hole-runner with kicking skills and someone who wants to be aggressive but who can manage the game at the same time. Keith Earls is fit. Simon Zebo is constantly creative but has clearly benefited from whatever tough love he's been getting from Joe Schmidt.

Darren Sweetnam has balls! At the helm of everything is surely Ireland's most important player now: Conor Murray.

This weekend they have to back it up in Welford Road. These back-to-back fixtures are so storied precisely because so often one team takes a shellacking and returns to wreak havoc on their opponents a week later. Munster look perfectly equipped to deal with whatever is coming. It's nothing to what's passed.

Irish Independent

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