Monday 21 October 2019

Nakarawa the danger man as Racing look to overpower Reds


Racing's Leone Nakarawa. Photo: Getty Images
Racing's Leone Nakarawa. Photo: Getty Images
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Racing 92 scouting report:

How to beat them

A positive start is absolutely crucial for Munster.

With up to 8,000 Munster supporters expected to make the trip to Bordeaux, just 2,000 Racing fans are likely to do the same.

It may not be Thomond Park, but the Munster fans supporters will heavily outnumber their rivals, especially considering any neutrals who are at the game, are likely to be supporting the Reds, such is the distaste that French, non-Racing fans have for the big-money spenders.

Munster cannot get sucked into Racing's game-plan, as they did for large parts in Paris back in January.

A solid set-piece will be key to setting the platform from which their backs can play.

As highlighted in these pages yesterday, Henry Chavancy and Virimi Vakatawa are dangerous with ball in hand, but are less convincing defensively.

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As ever, Conor Murray's box-kicking will have to be on the money but the scrum-half comes into the game as one of, if not, the form player in world rugby right now. If Murray hits the kind of levels that he so often does, he will give Munster every chance of advancing to the final.

How they beat you

Racing will look to bully Munster up front and unleash their pace and power - of which there is plenty, right throughout their team.

The French side can lure opposition teams into a false sense of security by punching holes around the edges, before getting the likes of Teddy Thomas and Vakatawa involved.

Munster must match Racing's aggression at the breakdown, and stop the likes of Yannick Nyanga and Bernard Le Roux getting front-foot ball.

Key players

Leone Nakarawa The all-singing, all-dancing Fijian (below) is a joy to watch and is the most dangerous player in the Racing side.

Nakarawa's offloading game will be a constant threat to Munster, while he is also deceptively quick.

Munster, however, will know exactly what to expect from the 30-year-old, who spent three successful years at Glasgow before he moved to Racing two years ago.

"Whatever picture presents in front of him he will try to find a solution. It's fantastic, off the cuff," Ronan O'Gara said about the mercurial Nakarawa last year.

That sheer unpredictability is what sets him apart, but Nakarawa is also a real threat at the lineout, and that's not to mention his relentless work at the breakdown or his huge engine.

Pat Lambie The man keeping Dan Carter out of the team, there will be a lot of pressure on Lambie's shoulders to deliver a big performance.

The 56-times-capped Springbok is in his first season with Racing. Lambie didn't start at out-half in either of the pool games against Munster, with Carter and Remi Tales both preferred. Carter will add huge impact from the bench, as he did in the quarter-final win over Clermont.

Lambie will come up against several of his compatriots, including CJ Stander who was shown a red card for his tackle on the out-half in Ireland's first win on South African soil two years ago. The 27-year-old will be expected to get Racing's dangerous back-line firing, but he can expect plenty of traffic coming down his channel as Stander and Co are sure to target his defence.

Donnacha Ryan For all of the razzle-dazzle that Racing possess, the Tipperary native has brought a real steely toughness to the French side's pack.

It's easy to forget the key intervention that Ryan had in Paris during the crucial win over Munster, when he regathered the restart late in the day, and that came off the back of a huge performance against his home province.

Munster have insisted all week that they will not change any of their lineout calls, but they will have to come up with even more variations to ensure that their former talisman doesn't disrupt their set-piece.

Last meeting

The defeat in Paris back in January will still frustrate Munster, as it was their own sloppiness that contributed to their downfall.

On the flip side of that, however, it will mean that they will hold no fear of taking on Racing for a third time this season.

Maxime Machenaud's unerring accuracy from the tee that afternoon was such that Munster can ill-afford to give away more sloppy penalties within range.

Munster themselves left some kickable points behind them however, and now having Murray as a realistic extra place-kicking option, they look better equipped to perhaps go one better.

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