Sunday 24 March 2019

David Wallace: Saili signing can set tone for final push

All Blacks centre has power, skills and character to be a big success

Francis Saili
Francis Saili

David Wallace

It wasn't the typical European week for Munster but by signing up someone like Francis Saili it made a real statement, and it's an exciting capture.

I was looking at some of his stuff online and he seems like a powerful footballer. He has some nice touches, chips and all the skills you would expect from someone that has two caps for the All Blacks.

I'm sure he would have won more caps were it not for injury, and overall he certainly seems like the right type of signing.

Munster needed a guy like him to get good go-forward ball especially in midfield, where they have lacked that real cutting edge in recent years. He is a bit like a slightly bigger Lifeimi Mafi, from speaking to a few of the players.

It's great to see and hopefully he can fit in well and do some damage for Munster next season. He seems to be a bit of character as well judging on the YouTube video of him kicking the conversion for the Barbarians against Leicester. Not a bad signing at all.

Munster may not have been in European action last weekend but the Champions Cup still went ahead - the French teams are looking very strong this year once again, and Clermont are my bet for winning it out eventually after so many years of heartache.

They are looking the strongest and it will probably be a Toulon and Clermont final. Leinster have their work cut out, having to travel to France, but you would never write them off.

Luck has favoured the French sides with the home semi-finals again this year and it's a big disadvantage for Leinster and Saracens. Saying all that, Leinster have a bit of a history of pulling off big results in France.

With Munster not being involved last weekend it just gave the returning internationals another bit of time for the bodies to heal and for the energy levels to come back up to par.

The intensity of being in Ireland camp really zaps the energy and it would have been mentally and physically tough. So a break at this time of the year would have helped going into this final block of games.


Guys will be eager to get back into it after the break. Some guys would have wanted to play against Connacht but their bodies didn't let them and they will be hungry for game-time now after that.

It's not going to be the hardest run-in ever, and the fact that there is a week or two between each game will help as well and stand Munster in good stead.

Other teams are in similar situations having internationals coming back, but not being in Europe focuses the mind on the Pro12. Munster will have fewer distractions than the likes of Leinster or even Edinburgh for example.

Murrayfield is always a difficult place to go because it's such a big stadium and there's a funny atmosphere in there. You can get caught a bit cold but hopefully Munster will have most of their players back this weekend and the experienced guys will know this stadium only too well.

Edinburgh had a big game against London Irish last weekend and emotionally as well as physically that would have taken an awful lot out of them. It's coming to that stage in the season where it's difficult to peak for every game and sometimes after getting a big high you get a bit of a low and hopefully Munster can capitalise on that if that's the case.

With Treviso after this one you wouldn't be totally dismissive of the Italians but at the same time you expect Munster to beat teams near the bottom of the table.

So this is obviously the big game in April considering it's away from home and Edinburgh are challenging for a Challenge Cup spot. It's not going to be a cake-walk but you would hope with a strong side out that Munster would have too much for Edinburgh.

I don't think just making the top four will be in Munster's psyche - they want that home semi-final and I think they will really target this game. There's just two games in April and then the next game after that is Ulster on May 9.

So there is a nice spread between the fixtures, and winning over in Edinburgh is going to be their biggest challenge right now - they should be able to pull it off.

Irish Independent

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