Saturday 24 March 2018

Academy lads step up to press their claims

Munster players including Donncha O’Callaghan, Dave O’Callaghan, Billy Holland and CJ Stander during lineout practice at training in Limerick
Munster players including Donncha O’Callaghan, Dave O’Callaghan, Billy Holland and CJ Stander during lineout practice at training in Limerick

Anthony Foley

Coming away from Irish Independent Park with a win to kickstart this block of Pro12 games was just what we wanted, but the performance - especially in the second half - was better again.

It took some time for us to settle into the game, but I thought we played some great stuff once we found our rhythm.

Having not played for two weeks and facing opposition that had two games in that period meant we were a bit rustier than Cardiff, but once we hit the required game pace and intensity levels in contact we were very good.

Once we managed to break them down the points began to flow, but it took a good 45 minutes' work to get that done.

With so many of the lads either away with Ireland seniors and U-20s, or else injured, it was always going to be a tough outing.

But the reality of it is we have a very good squad. To put it plainly, we were down 29 players last weekend for a myriad of reasons, and that's a lot of bodies.

Obviously not all of them could play at the same time, but the issue isn't the availability, it is the competition for places. We need to have players chomping at each other in training to drive the standards.

In the end we had two academy players starting, an academy player making his debut off the bench and a club scrum-half coming on in the last few minutes, and it was hugely positive seeing these guys perform at the next level.


When you get good performances from lads like that, it makes these wins all the more impressive and important to us.

We did well when the international lads were away in November too - these guys love getting the chance to put their foot in the door. They know that when they put in a performance that they can push their claims at a later date.

Right across the park we had some very good performances. Our set-piece was solid, we competed well and in the second half we took our scores well.

Considering that he wasn't due to play any part in this game before Andrew Conway came down with flu, I was delighted with how Luke O'Dea performed on his comeback.

He has had a tough couple of seasons through injury, but it was important that Luke stepped up and got on with it. He did that.

When a guy is out for the period of time that he has been out, it is great to see him back. He has played at European Cup level for us and stood up well at that level and having a guy on the periphery due to injury the whole time is hard.

It's hard for him, but it is a big boost to have him back.

Dave Kilcoyne will be pretty happy with his comeback from his knee injury too. He put in a solid 30 minutes: he made an impact, he had a couple of big hits and a couple of big carries. It's great to have him back.

Our scrum was strong all day, with John Ryan, Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha and Stephen Archer all doing well.

So overall it was a positive night. The newly redeveloped ground looked great, the atmosphere was good and the crowd seemed to like the new surroundings.

Taking place after the Ireland international it was a hard event to follow, but I was delighted to see a good crowd turn up as they always do down there.

They stuck in behind the team particularly through a tough first half and I think the boys treated them with some lovely scores after the break.

I think everybody left that pitch happy and left the stadium happy.

After making a good move up the table last weekend it is vital that we back it up tomorrow afternoon over in Scarlets. They are a very good side, as we saw at Thomond Park earlier this season.

They have established a good culture in the club for many years and they have great pride in the jersey and play with a passion and a fluidity that is hard to break down.

They will be a tough side to beat and we know that we need to turn up with a big performance if we hope to get any points over there.

It is important that we keep our eye on our own situation and understand that we have a big challenge ahead of us.

We have always talked about taking it one game at a time, and of course we want to keep our momentum going but we recognise the difficult task ahead tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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