Tuesday 21 November 2017

David Wallace - Rassie and Jacques will be huge losses on and off field

 

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo and Sean McCarthy of Munster playing soccer during Munster Rugby Squad Training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Picture: Sportsfile

David Wallace

It was tough for Munster Rugby last week. Losing Simon Zebo and then losing to Connacht would have been hard to take, but they will bounce back against Dragons ahead of fresh start with new man Johann van Graan.

Munster made a good start to the game at the Sportsground and Zebo's try was triggered by a real piece of individual brilliance by Rory Scannell, two players who were left out of the Ireland squad trying to make a statement. 

But that game was always going to be sticky. Connacht were going to be up for it and they were set to use it to try and ignite their season. It's an easy one for them to get up for mentally. 

There were some great performances from Connacht, and they scored two magnificent tries. The red card was a pivotal moment when it was 13-13 and the game was in the balance. It was a big decision and Andrew Conway will feel unlucky. It looked more like an accident more than anything else to me. 

Nevertheless, Munster won't be using that to cover any cracks and there were still a few areas where they could have won that game. 

Defensively, they will be upset that Connacht broke them open a few times, and maybe a bit more patience will help them with their cohesion. There seemed to be a little bit of a break in the line where you had guys shooting up on Bundee Aki. 

For the second Connacht try there was a big disconnect from the tail of the lineout and the backs. There was a lack of cohesion there again.

You need to put the pressure on but have an understanding of who is outside you. But it's an easy fix, Munster just have to work on the cohesion between the tail gunners in the lineout and the backline. But there was a massive gap on that occasion which Tom Farrell really exploited.

If anything this defeat will hurt Munster and make them a bit stronger. It's not an excuse but they were coming off the high of the Racing 92 game. It's always a bit of come-down from the heights and intensity of the Champions Cup back to the league. 

Experience

You can feel psychologically a little bit off, getting into the Guinness PRO14 again. Peter O'Mahony would argue that this is a professional game, but this is real life and the players have are susceptible to that. They are not robots.

With Johann coming in, there is enough experience there and it has been flagged for a long enough time for it to be a smooth transition. Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery will feel that they are up to speed as if they were taking over the reins themselves. 

The momentum from what the guys have been doing, and the principles of what they have been coached in, will still need to be brought forward and transferred from one coach to the next. I am sure Johann will tinker a bit and try and create his own style over time, but he will have to work within some constraints to maintain momentum. 

There are good guys coming back as well and then you have Chris Cloete getting his first few opportunities in a Munster jersey. It will be interesting to see how he fits in; he packs a punch in terms of his carrying and he will be a great addition. 

A lot of the guys who have been there for a while and they will assume more leadership roles. It will be a chance for younger guys to shine. With new coaches coming in they will see this as an opportunity for them.

Hopefully, Munster can get back to winning ways against Dragons, and you would expect them to get the victory - the Welsh are struggling in Conference B. 

Dragons will be coming over trying to get their season ignited and that is what Munster will have to contend with. When you are one of the bigger teams, you will be seen as scalp for the other teams who see it as a chance to get their seasons back on track.

But I don't think Munster will be contemplating anything other than a win, especially after losing against Connacht. They will feel aggrieved about that result. 

Munster can take bits from that game too, especially around the breakdown and defence and they should win tonight.

Irish Independent

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