Wednesday 13 December 2017

Reds must learn lesson from Tigers turnaround as last eight beckons

Warriors prepared for battle as Erasmus's men look to back up Racing performance at Scotstoun

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

There is a hint of destiny about this Munster team but Rassie Erasmus and Co know destiny won't get them very far against Glasgow Warriors this evening.

The forecast is for a crisp evening at Scotstoun, but this should be an affair of red hot intensity as two teams with genuine ambitions of going far in this season's Champions Cup go toe to toe.

Last week's win over Racing 92 was impressive stuff from Munster and put them within touching distance of a quarter-final place for the first time since 2014, but despite Ronan O'Gara's presence in the coaching box there was little evidence the Parisians were interested in putting up a whole lot of fight.

The Scots, however, are on the cusp of a historic run to the knock-out stages in Gregor Townsend's final season before he moves to the international arena.

Winning the Pro12 was the high point of the former out-half's time in charge, but the lack of a European season of note is the only asterisk on his CV. He has revolutionised the Warriors and a tilt at the Champions Cup title would cement his legacy.

So, the home side - who trail Munster by three points with two rounds remaining - have plenty of motivation. Throw in the fact that they've lost twice to the Reds this season and the bad blood that emanated from the Keith Earls and Fraser Brown incident in the Thomond Park clash and it should be tasty stuff.

For the visiting team, this is about showing some development.

When they hockeyed Leicester at home, they were unable to back up the levels of performance at Welford Road seven days later. They did something similar in France last weekend and will need to get back to somewhere close to that intensity this evening.

Emotion

The Round 2 fixture was one of incomprehensible emotion, taking place as it did a day after Anthony Foley's funeral, and Rassie Erasmus is expecting a far more routine affair today.

"It will be more a game that will be decided by tactics and individual decision making," he said. "Both teams will have intensity, both teams will be highly motivated. Both teams will see it as a must-win game. Both teams will be full strength.

"We have played one another twice already so we know what to expect from one another.

"This will be more of a tactical game although the physical part and the mental side and the intensity will be a big thing.

"Tactically if I look at the weather, it is going to be freezing and snowing and they are playing at home on their (4G) pitch.

"The week of Axel's death was just an emotional week. . . you can't really understand why we pitched up or why we played the way we did. You can't really compare that to a normal week."

Given the frequency with which these two play each other, there will be a sense of familiarity about the game.

"Munster are a very good side in great form so we require aggression, accuracy, effort of the best we have ever put together this season," Townsend said.

"I have been impressed with Munster. Tyler Bleyendaal being fit has helped them.

"Their coaching knowledge is coming through and their game-plan has brought them a lot of success. Defensively they have been outstanding with the best defensive record in our league and I think in Europe.

"You put that together and you have young players playing well and their key players fit, (Peter) O'Mahony, (Conor) Murray, (CJ) Stander, (Simon) Zebo.

"These are quality players. Munster are showing they are one of the quality teams in Europe. They showed that since our game. They've suffered one defeat and that was in the last kick of the game against Leicester."

Townsend has named 15 Scotland internationals in a strong side who will back themselves to take Munster on up front and cause problems for Jacques Nienaber's defence.

As expected, Tommy O'Donnell misses out and Jack O'Donoghue comes in as one of four changes that see Dave Kilcoyne replace James Cronin, Jean Kleyn take over from Billy Holland and Keith Earls replace Ronan O'Mahony.

Ian Keatley comes back on to the bench at a venue where he delivered the last-gasp drop-goal to win here in the Pro12 in November. It's likely to be that tight once again.

A bonus point keeps Munster's noses in front and it might be what they have to settle for if they can't get back to the levels of intensity they showed last weekend.

Verdict: Glasgow

GLASGOW WARRIORS - S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, L Jones; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson; T Swinson, J Gray (capt); R Harley, R Wilson, J Strauss. Reps: P MacArthur, A Allan, D Rae, M Fagerson, C Fusaro, G Hart, N Grigg, P Murchie.

MUNSTER - S Zebo; A Conway, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, D Ryan; P O'Mahony (capt), J O'Donoghue, CJ Stander. Reps: R Marshall, J Cronin, T Du Toit, D Foley, B Holland, D Williams, I Keatley, F Saili.

Ref - L Pearce (RFU)

Irish Independent

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