Wednesday 21 March 2018

David Wallace: Great to see progress in absence of Irish stars

O'Donoghue shows he is the real deal as others also stake claim for places

Munster players – including Donnacha Ryan – take a break during training in Limerick
Munster players – including Donnacha Ryan – take a break during training in Limerick
Munster’s Felix Jones, right, and Duncan Williams go through their paces in training

David Wallace

Saturday's win against Cardiff and a few odd results elsewhere mean Anthony Foley's side are pretty solid in second place in the Pro12.

Victory tomorrow against Scarlets could well see them climb to the top of the table with just seven game to go, in pole position for a home semi-final.

With a bit of flu going around the camp, losing Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway could have been a major hiccup, but fair play to the lads that stepped it, it was pretty seamless.

The youngsters went well, especially Rory Scannell and Jack O'Donoghue.

Scannell didn't have too much time to get ready for battle, but he had a pretty solid outing: he kicked well, was solid defensively and swapped in and out with JJ Hanrahan pretty well. He has shown that he can be relied up on now.

We have been talking about O'Donoghue making the step up into the first team for quite some time, and a few excellent appearances in the B&I Cup, where he captained the side, whetted the appetite.

He has really impressed me. He had only got little bits and pieces of games until last week, but is quick and also aggressive and abrasive.

He is very agile too and took his try very well. There was a lot of good play in the build-up as well.

With Robin Copeland gone for the season, CJ Stander out for a couple of more games and with the international lads away for the next few weeks, expect to see plenty more of him before the end of the season.

Hopefully Luke O'Dea will get another run too. He came in for his first start in more than a year and can be very pleased with his showing.

He has been very unlucky with injury but is very talented. He always seemed to have a setback on his return, so to come through that game will be huge for him.

What really caught the eye was the way the lads performed when the big names were away on international duty. If they can win again tomorrow that'll be four wins from four without their best players.


A win against Cardiff is a great way to start this block of four games, but with Scarlets, Glasgow and Ospreys to come, the tests only get tougher.

I saw Denis Hurley said the side is targeting a clean sweep. That is a big ask but let's hope with the way they are going, it's achievable.

Munster have scored nearly 100 points in their last two games. If they can keep winning until the international window closes it bodes well because their run-in is pretty favourable.

For the boys on international duty, it was a great weekend, I'm sure they were buzzing after that win. When you see the way they celebrated together afterwards it clearly was a tough game and the win meant a lot.

Once upon a time any win against France would have meant we were falling over ourselves to praise the team, but being critical in victory just goes to show what people think of the capabilities of this team.

Under Joe Schmidt the Irish public and press are now saying that Ireland should be winning these games. It is great that we are in that situation.

While the set-piece operated well, the breakdown was a real strength - Ireland didn't allow France to dominate the turnover count like they did against Scotland - and the defence was really, really strong again.

That will be very important against England, who have such a big pack with powerful runners.

But I have no fear that Ireland won't be able to handle it. It is going to be a massive game against England but I think we have the tools to beat them.

Likewise with Munster tomorrow, I think they will make it three wins in a row against Scarlets. They picked up an impressive win against Connacht last weekend, and after losing over there for the last two seasons, Munster players don't need to be told about difficulties playing in Llanelli.

Hopefully the flu victims will be back, but with the likes of JJ Hanrahan, Keith Earls and Ronan O'Mahony all in top form, and Dave Kilcoyne likely to start again, I cannot see Scarlets keeping Munster at bay.

Irish Independent

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