Wednesday 23 October 2019

David Wallace: 'There is a lot of talk about Conor Murray's form but I don't think we should be worried'

Ireland's Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

In the last couple of weeks we have been totally focused on the ups and downs of the Six Nations but with Munster back in action against the Kings at Irish Independent Park tonight, a change of focus is most welcome.

Tonight's game should end in victory for Munster, but it will be very interesting to see how the players released from Ireland camp will blend in with the rest of the lads retained in the province.

The Ireland guys will want to put in a big performance and force their way into the team for the Italy game, while there is the matter of Champions Cup quarter-final for everyone to put their hand up for.


I'm sure the Ireland players were delighted to claim a good win in Murrayfield. I don't think either team played a flawless game, but the important thing was to shake off the disappointment of the England defeat.

From a Munster point of view, seeing the likes of Chris Farrell impressing on his return was brilliant, while Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls were very effective too.

Conor Murray was much improved in Scotland, Joey Carbery carved out a couple of moments of real brilliance after a shaky start, while Dave Kilcoyne left his imprint on the action.

Carbery's kicking remained flawless - it seems like ages since he missed his last kick against Castres in December.

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As Munster supporters, we have become accustomed to moments like his stunning line-break and pass, which sent Earls over for his try, and he seems to be benefiting from the extended starting time he is getting here in the No 10 shirt.

There has been a bit of talk about Conor's current form, and I really don't think there is anything to be worried about.

He missed a long period of time with that injury and it takes a good while to get back into the swing of things. It is easy to get match fitness back, but for him, touch is a key part of his game.

He is so accurate in how he plays the game. And with the team losing the physical battle against England it makes life much harder for the scrum half. If a team win collisions it helps their No 9 a lot by providing an efficient and stable platform.

While Conor is on the right side of his injury worries, a lot of focus is now on CJ Stander and Tadhg Beirne and how long they will be out. Ireland - and to a greater extent, Munster - will miss the impact of both players.

CJ does so much work in that Munster back-row: he does the ugly jobs, makes the carries and tackles, and is such a smart rugby player.

Tadhg has made an instant impact in his first season in the province and you'd hope that he takes enough time to shake off that knee injury.

Come the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup you'd hope they'd be both fit and ready, because they are key men in this pack.

But there was some good news this week seeing Jack O'Donoghue back in training after his serious knee injury.

He'll need time to get back up to speed and by all accounts he is back sooner than expected for a cruciate ligament injury.

He is still only 25 but already he has almost 100 caps, has captained the province and has played for Ireland, and when you're injured it gives you a chance to work on other parts of your game and physique.

Looking at tonight's game, the Kings had a narrow defeat to the Cheetahs last weekend with almost 80 points scored.

They only have two wins to their name this season, but if their recent form is anything to go by it could be a dangerous game.

They are blessed with fantastic open-field runners like Yaw Penxe and Masixole Banda: they can be devastating if they are given space, and they'll relish the chance to play on the lively 3G surface at Irish Independent Park.

Certainly, they'll miss the quality of CJ Velleman in the back-row due to suspension, but despite their weapons, you'd expect Munster will overpower them.

One worry is that the Kings played last weekend and Munster haven't had a game in the last two weeks.

Irish Independent Park was rocking when the Ireland U-20s beat England there two weeks ago and I'm sure we'll see a similar passion there tonight.

I expect Munster to win comfortably, but if they approach this game in any way below 100pc it will be trickier than it should be.

Irish Independent

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