Tuesday 23 January 2018

David Wallace: History tells us this will be a tough test for Munster

Trip to Liberty Stadium will bring the best out of province's troops

Anthony Foley and Jerry Flannery talk tactics ahead of Sunday's game
Anthony Foley and Jerry Flannery talk tactics ahead of Sunday's game

David Wallace

What a game it will be at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday. Even at such an early stage of the season, both Ospreys and Munster will need a win and it sets up another classic.

Every time these sides play it throws up something different, they know so much about each other; and after last year's results, both teams have a point to prove.

Last term when Munster went over there, they lost 26-12. It didn't seem devastating on the scoreboard, but Ospreys dominated and Munster's tries came when the game was dead and buried.

Similarly, Ospreys wouldn't have good memories of the last time these sides met in the Pro12 semi-final in Thomond Park. So this is a game that won't lack that bit of extra bite and Munster will have their hands full.

Ospreys have been there or thereabouts for the last few years. They are one of the top sides in the league, they have depth and quality, but this is a strong Munster team.

During the World Cup, Munster need to think that this is the right time to go over there and turn the Ospreys over. Munster are only missing four internationals and these are the points that could be invaluable at the end of the year.

They didn't get all five points against Treviso last weekend, but in the first game you just need to beat the other team and forget about what comes after that.

Treviso are not the team they were a few years ago, but it is only early season and Munster blooded a lot of guys in that game which could be crucial, especially if injuries come along later in the season.

Munster gave away a losing bonus point against the Italians, but you would hope that they won't be worrying about that. It's when you play the bigger teams that you think about not allowing them in for the losing bonus, and they'll get over that aspect of it.

This week will be a huge step-up in class and that's when Munster need to be more clinical with their opportunities, but I wouldn't dwell on the Treviso game, and I'm sure Anthony Foley won't either.

Last weekend, Ireland concluded their World Cup warm-up games with a disappointing defeat to England, but it's a match where management will be scrutinising players' performances, rather than the result.

Disaster

It was difficult to take much from the game itself, other than Ireland weren't up to World Cup speed and England were. You could get the feeling that England really wanted to win that one, and if they didn't, it would have been a disaster in Twickenham, less than two weeks before they host the World Cup.

I didn't think the whole victory lap and wild celebrations afterwards were necessary but they showed intent in that game, and you would have hoped Ireland would have matched them to a degree.

England were fantastic in the first half, they were by far the better side, and it wasn't nice to see Ireland's defensive line being breached so easily, time and again. Some of the leaders needed to take responsibility, but that didn't come until the second half.

When Ireland did eventually begin to click, they were able to back up their supremacy at scrum-time and they won the second half which was important.

Losing a game like that is never good, so close to a major tournament but at least Ireland showed glimpses of what they can do after the break.

The team will be disappointed with individual errors more than anything considering the tournament was less than two weeks away.

But Joe Schmidt will have saved plenty for World Cup time, when Ireland have a nice fixture schedule and the games build perfectly, towards the important ones - Italy and France.

That's when the real tournament begins for Ireland and they will have much needed game-time against Canada and Romania before they need to up it big time.

All in all, Ireland fell to sixth in the world rankings but that won't mean anything by next week. I believe Ireland are still to peak this season and they will do that when it really matters.

If they get it right, like they did in successive Six Nations, a semi-final is a real possibility and, as they proved before, they can beat anyone on their day.

Legends line up for CROSS charity cycle

I took part in a few days of the CROSS Rugby Legends Cycle at the start of the week, and it was a fantastic experience for a really worthy cause.

Everyone knows someone affected by cancer in some shape or form, and this cycle raises funds to help CROSS with their research.

It's a very worthwhile opportunity for everyone involved and all the funds go towards cancer research in Trinity and St James's Hospital.

The cycle is in its fourth year and already €225,750 has been raised for research in that period.

There were about 150 cyclists taking part every day - my brother Paul has organised the event since it started. He worked really hard to bring over some well-known faces again this year, but the guys were delighted to get their chance to contribute to the fight against cancer.

This year we had my brothers - Paul, Richard and Henry, and the likes of Zinzan Brooke, Serge Betsen, Liam Toland, Craig Chalmers, Malcolm O'Kelly, Bob Casey, Mick Galwey, Lee Davies, Rob Wainright and Doug Howlett.

Entertainer Luka Bloom also did his bit in Flanagan's of Lahinch on Monday.

Irish Independent

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