Monday 25 June 2018

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Early hits hold key in French test

No room for ill-discipline like we saw against Leinster

Conor Murray and Jack O'Donoghue play soccer in training Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Murray and Jack O'Donoghue play soccer in training Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

David Wallace

Munster weren't far off the mark against Leinster last weekend. They seemed to do the difficult parts quite well and make errors with the simpler things but that can be easily rectified.

They were a little loose with the ball, and to be fair Leinster put them under a lot of pressure with their line speed. Munster didn't help themselves either. They just needed to have a bit more composure and have more of focus on their discipline. 

Peter O'Mahony gets in some passing practice Photo: Sportsfile
Peter O'Mahony gets in some passing practice Photo: Sportsfile

Credit to Leinster, they didn't do anything spectacular but they held on to possession very well. And that was the point of difference - they frustrated Munster by retaining possession and forcing penalties. 

Munster were just a bit looser in terms of keeping the ball and they need to be mindful of that when they head into Europe this week. 

Munster have bags of firepower, they seemed to have more in the backline than Leinster did, and it was evident certainly in the tries that they scored. 

Munster had a disallowed try too and, all in all, although Munster weren't as clinical as they might have liked, they still could have taken the spoils. Had Keith Earls' early try been allowed that would have changed the whole complexion of the game.

But Munster will be mindful of the fact that they need to be more disciplined in future. Gifting Johnny Sexton kickable penalties is only going to end badly, and they did on two occasions after one of their tries, which negated all of their good efforts.

If you look at the Joe Schmidt approach, it's all about being extremely clinical and doing the simple things right. That's what wins trophies. 

You can put your body on the line in every tackle, stop teams from playing and be as structured as you like in defence, but if you give away easy points through penalties, then it all counts for nothing.

It's all about strengthening the basics. All of the building blocks to score heavily are certainly there and it's just about putting in a more complete performance, and reigniting that belief from last season.

SKILFUL Munster should not be disheartened by last week's result and they need to stick to their guns and continue to go wide when the chances arise. I have no problem with them trying to get the ball out to their skilful and exciting outside backs, or whoever is there at the time. The forwards are working hard to create that space and it's a great brand of rugby.

Munster may have played a tighter game in the past. But you have to play to your strengths and now there is so much talent outside that it's only right to try and use it.

They still have a magnificent pack and they can revert back to type too, which is great. It's just about knowing what to use and when. 

When New Zealand have to be, they can be very narrow and direct, and when they want to go wide they catch teams out. Munster can play with this approach as well. 

It will take a big performance to go to Castres and win this weekend, and you can never say you are confident of winning in France in the Champions Cup, but I am confident Munster can put in the performance required.

The opening stand will be so important and how physical Munster are in every facet of the game; setting the tone is key when you go to France. 

It's definitely a good thing when you play a French team short of confidence. If they were top of the Top 14 you know you are in for a real battle. They are probably on a low ebb but it's a new competition and it gives Castres a chance to start fresh. Which makes it all the more important to snuff out any confidence creeping back in. 

Munster are heading over to play a team who are 11th of 14 teams in the French league, but it's fraught with danger at the same time too, and if you take your eye off the ball you could be in for a rude awakening over there.

The first scrum, first tackle, first bit of contact, Munster need to be at the races and winning the collisions. Munster need to set out their stall early and that could pave the way to a great weekend in France and a good season in Europe.

Irish Independent

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