Friday 27 April 2018

Chance to conquer Warriors

International window gives Johann's boys the advantage

Gerbrandt Grobler and Sean McCarthy vie for possession in a lineout. Photo: Sportsfile
Gerbrandt Grobler and Sean McCarthy vie for possession in a lineout. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Ireland and Wales face off in a massive Six Nations game at Aviva Stadium tomorrow, but Munster's Guinness PRO14 tie with Glasgow Warriors is another huge one for different reasons.

Glasgow are 16 points ahead now in the table after 15 games and Munster's 25-18 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park last weekend, where they actually did really well to salvage a losing bonus point at the death.

Head coach Johann van Graan at training. Photo: Sportsfile
Head coach Johann van Graan at training. Photo: Sportsfile

This Round 16 tie is such a big game for both teams, but especially for Munster. Johann van Graan's side will be disappointed losing last weekend but it was over in Wales and that can be the toughest place to go in the league.

What will stand to them in good stead, is the players dug deep and they fought to get themselves back into the game at the very end. They were mentally very strong.

Of course it was Tyler Bleyendaal who had the final say, and it is great to see him back and giving another option there in a competitive out-half position.

But Munster needed Bleyendaal's heroics because of their slow start against Cardiff, and sometimes when you do go to Wales you can be caught napping at the start. The Welsh teams always start at 100 miles an hour and the style of play is open and expansive.

Munster were caught a bit on the back foot but they battened down the hatches. They had the mental strength to come back into the game with a couple of good tries from Chris Cloete and Stephen Fitzgerald. And it was great to see Fitzgerald get his second try for Munster just after his new development deal.

Ronan O'Mahony was also back in action for the first time since April 2016. It was great to see him back and he was straight in from the kick-off with a noteworthy carry. Then Matthew Rees made a break down the front of the lineout and O'Mahony made a big hit on him. He wasn't shirking in the physical stakes.

It was good to see him back. Munster have great options on the wings. They have a lot of resources there and it's fantastic to see. Long may that continue.

Send-off

Hopefully it will be a big send-off for Simon Zebo this weekend. It's his last game in Irish Independent Park and I'm sure he will want to put on a show in Cork and his team-mates will want to give him a proper send-off in his home-town venue.

It could be an important game for Munster with the strong team they have selected. It could be an eight-point swing at the top of the standings too. If Munster win and stop Glasgow from picking up anything, it would really eat into Glasgow's lead.

Munster are still missing their major international players. The same goes for Glasgow. It's a test of strength of depth for both squads, and for Munster it's important to look at that ahead of the game against Toulon.

Injuries happen and once you go into the latter stages of the Champions Cup you may have to call on players without that many minutes under their belts. This provides a great chance to play against a top-quality opposition.

In the Six Nations, Ireland never have it easy against Wales and this weekend is no exception. Even with the injuries in the Welsh squad they seem to be playing great rugby.

It's going to be a really tough, physical game. And the Welsh have brought in the big guns with three British and Irish Lions - Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar all back.

Wales have the ability to unlock defences. Ireland will be reviewing those three tries they let in against Italy and trying to minimise mistakes there. Wales are a more potent threat.

Robbie Henshaw is probably the best defender in the Irish backline. And going forward he is their go-to guy in terms of momentum and linking play. You can't underestimate his relationship with Bundee Aki too. That Connacht link was huge as they gelled with Ireland. He will be a massive loss no matter what.

Henshaw is always one of the first names on the team-sheet and with good reason. But Ireland have able replacements. Joe Schmidt has plenty of options and quality that are determined to take their chance when they get it. Especially in a big game like this.

Irish Independent

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