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David Wallace: Not the start Axel wanted, but he'll soon fix these teething problems


Anthony Foley gives instructions during training ahead of Munster's clash with Treviso

Anthony Foley gives instructions during training ahead of Munster's clash with Treviso


Anthony Foley gives instructions during training ahead of Munster's clash with Treviso

I'm sure there is plenty of concern out there with Munster supporters following last week's opening-day defeat to Edinburgh, but while there is plenty of room for improvement, I didn't see anything that can't be remedied pretty quickly.

In an ideal world they would be able to tear into the campaign in the same way they would a Heineken Cup final, but the reality of the situation is very different. It's going to be tough, there will be balls dropped and everything won't go as planned at the start.

I think we'll see a very different Munster when the handcuffs are taken off and Axel is free to pick who he wants, without the constraints of the player welfare programme. It makes a huge difference having everyone available and training at the same speed - just look how good Edinburgh looked.


It is no coincidence that all three of the leading Irish provinces struggled last weekend. It makes a massive difference being without that standard of international who have to sit out the first few games. Imagine the steely edge that Paul O'Connell or Peter O'Mahony would have brought.

What would have concerned the management though is that Munster were a long way off the required standards in the physicality battle. That and their work at the breakdown needs to be sharpened up.

During pre-season the physical side of the game is given a break for a while, so it can take a little bit of time to get back into competition mindset. It really looked like Munster lost the shoulder battle at the breakdown, at the maul and carrying into contact. If you go into these contact zones with your shoulder higher than your opponent, there is only going to be one winner.

More than anything, that part of the game is in your head. It's all about fighting the battle with yourself to put your head lower and that has to be done before the game - it's like a mental training session to prepare for battle. Deficiencies in that part of the game filters through to mauling, rucking, tackling and crash ball. It's vital that it's right, but it's something that will gradually get better as the season goes on.

Funnily enough, on a day where the team were dominated, the Munster back-row performed well in parts. Shane Buckley had a fantastic game and we saw the best of CJ Stander with his two tries.

There were a few shining lights: Ivan Dineen carried well after he came on, Simon Zebo looked lively too, but overall there is plenty for guys to work on.

There might be an assumption that Axel would have brought the lads in and flogged them on Sunday and Monday to shake off the frustration of that loss, but I doubt that happened.

With the six-day turnaround, I suspect they'll have identified one or two areas to work on.

In all squad sessions there are standard things that you have to get through, the likes of lineouts and scrums always need work, so it really is a small window to do any specific alterations or fix-ups.

I'd imagine the fallout and disappointment of last week's defeat will have sunk in to the lads anyway, so there could be a bit of frustration taken out on Treviso.

But that won't be enough to take the win from this trip. Munster lost in Treviso for the past two years so they certainly won't be complacent and won't want a third loss there. But I can't see it happening, I think Munster will win.


There is no doubt, this is not the start that Axel would have wanted, it's been a tough couple of weeks, but finishing the season with a loss like that would be a lot worse that starting that way.

In the first few weeks of the season - especially under a new coach - you can fix these things. In fairness the lads are used to playing in certain ways and Anthony has changed that fairly dramatically.

He's a new coach with new plays and processes and it can be tricky to change. Sometimes you can end up focusing on trying to remember the new plays instead of playing.

It is very early days and I don't think we've seen anything to worry about just yet.

Irish Independent