Thursday 21 March 2019

Erasmus in warning for Munster to get their house back in order

Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Now things get really serious.

Humiliated against Glasgow last weekend, Munster begin the lead-in to a hat-trick of pivotal fixtures - an interpro against Leinster followed by two Champions Cup games - and all the big guns are back.

They will be expected to fire today where so many shot blanks last weekend.

"They're the team that beat us last year at home and when we beat them there it was a two or three-pointer where Francis Saili scored that last try," says Rassie Erasmus.

"They're a physical team, they showed last weekend they can win away from home. They were in the game against Glasgow until the end and missed the penalty to win the game.

"So it's tough. The whole season's going to be tough and this weekend is also a bit of mental pressure for us to get that bounce-back after a loss.

"They're pretty sharp in defence and physical. Look, they scrummed Glasgow all over the field when they played against them.

"They have a solid scrum and have a lot of senior members in their team, guys who are really good over the ball and who can disrupt you.

"They are a quality side. Where they are in the table is not a reflection of what they bring to the game. At this stage we just want to rectify the mess we had last Friday night.

"I think we must get our house in order, fix our problems."

Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Cj Stander are among six changes to the pack with the international front-row trio of Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan also all making their first starts of the season.

Returning

Robin Copeland is another to make his first start this term, making a relatively rare bow in the second-row alongside Billy Holland. Tommy O'Donnell remains in situ at openside with O'Mahony and Stander returning at 6 and 8 respectively.

Murray and Ian Keatley come in at half-back as does Jaco Taute in midfield. Partnering Rory Scannell, the South African takes charge of the outside channel for the first time this season.

There is one unchanged combination: back three Alex Wootton, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway.

JJ Hanrahan's second debut for the club might allow glimpses of the second-receiver game that Munster need to develop; he last featured for Munster in the 2015 championship final loss.

Shannon lock Sean McCarthy is included in his first match-day squad this season, while new arrival from Saracens, Mark Flanagan, could make his Munster debut off the bench.

Like Munster, the Blues are also beginning the road to transition, albeit a much more painful one after Danny Wilson announced his decision to quit next summer after refusing to acquire a bump in his playing budget.

The financially beleaguered side are remaining more than competitive for all that and, after competing well for an hour against Leinster, they played to the death against Connacht last time out and snatched the win on the whistle.

Jack Roberts makes his competitive debut as one of eight changes to their team. Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans reunite at half-back.

Wing Blaine Scully returns from injury to captain the team, while back-rower Olly Robinson gets a first start following his loan move from Bristol.

Matthew Rees is recalled at hooker, while James Down and George Earle form a new second-row.

Munster's last home defeat in this competition was a year ago in Cork to Cardiff, as it happens; Limerick is a less accommodating venue.

Despite winning all four league fixtures in Cork, they have lost all seven here. Make that eight.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - A Conway; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, A Wootton; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, R Copeland, B Holland, P O'Mahony capt., T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: R Marshall, L O'Connor, S Archer, M Flanagan, S McCarthy, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, C Farrell.

Cardiff Blues - R Williams; B Scully (capt), J Roberts, W Halaholo, T James; J Evans, T Williams; B Thyer, M Rees, T Filise, G Earle, J Down, J Turnbull, O Robinson, N Williams. Reps: E Lewis, C Domachowski, K Assiratti, S Davies, M Cook, L Williams, S Shingler, M Morgan.

Ref - Q Immelman (South Africa).

Munster v Cardiff Blues,

Live, Sky Sports, 1.30

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Why Irish fans shouldn't lose faith and how Joe Schmidt can turn things around for the World Cup

In association with Aldi

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport