Wednesday 22 August 2018

Munster must Castres aside discipline woes to prosper in France

Zebo: Back in action. Photo: Sportsfile
Zebo: Back in action. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

And so Munster return to France, 12 months on from the weekend when everything they ever thought they knew was brutally undercut by the death of life.

A family lost a loved one in Paris on October 16; Munster Rugby a seemingly irreplaceable foundation stone of all that had been constructed in the professional era.

They are bereft the bedrock but the building remains intact.

A year on, the province are disrupted by coaching upheaval of a far more mundane nature, as the uncertainty continues to surround the exact timing of the departure of Rassie Erasmus, so calm and assured after Anthony Foley's tragic passing.

As ever, Munster will seek to resource themselves to maintain their resolute professionalism throughout.

An away fixture in France always steels the mind, particularly at the start of a campaign.

Castres, a perennial over-achiever domestically, remain Europe's great underachievers; only once in 13 attempts have they reached the knockouts. Munster seek their 17th in all.

Castres haven't won once in the last ten attempts on any ground against Irish foes.

Even though they haven't met in five seasons, this fixture has been the most popular in the competition's history and Munster have thrived upon that familiarity, winning nine of 12.

Despite a poor start in the Top 14 - they sit 11th, with just two wins from seven - they defeated Clermont at home with a team that was arguably less rounded than tomorrow's selection.

Secondly, despite their reputation as a side who fold European tents by Christmas, they complicated Leinster's passage last January when drawing a game they could conceivably have won.

As ever, they will try to smash a side intent on coming here to smash and grab.

"We are going to have to work 70 minutes to break them down," said CJ Stander. "They are a big side you know and if you get in to a head battle with them you are going to struggle. They are big and powerful and like a maul and a good scrum."

Munster could have done with the heft of lock Jean Kleyn but injury rules him out while Stephen Archer's form earns him a nudge at tighthead over John Ryan. Mark Flanagan and Chris Farrell make Euro bows.

JJ Hanrahan is released to get more time with the second-string so Tyler Bleyendaal, despite his worrying place-kicking returns, gets the nod over Ian Keatley.

Simon Zebo's return aids the counter but his side must restore their discipline as they bid to ride the inevitable early storm.

Verdict: Munster

Castres Olympique - J Dumora; T Paris, A Taumoepeau, R Ebersohn, D Smith; B Urdapilleta, R Kockott; A Tichit, J Jenneker, D Kotze, L Jacquet, R Capo Ortega (c), Y Caballero, S Mafi, M Vaipulu. Reps: M-A Rallier, M Lazar, D Tussac, C Samson, A Jelonch, L Radosavljevic, F Vialelle, A Batlle.

Munster - S Zebo; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer, M Flanagan, B Holland, P O'Mahony (c), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: R Marshall, L O'Connor, J Ryan, R Copeland, J O'Donoghue, D Williams, I Keatley, A Conway.

Ref - M Carley (England).

Castres Olympique v Munster, Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports, 2.0

Irish Independent

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