Thursday 22 February 2018

Four points is a must in race for silverware

Victory tomorrow could leave Foley's troops in prime position

Munster's Donnacha Ryan wins possession in a lineout ahead of Dave O'Callaghan and Jack O'Donoghue during training at Irish Independent Park
Munster's Donnacha Ryan wins possession in a lineout ahead of Dave O'Callaghan and Jack O'Donoghue during training at Irish Independent Park
Peter O'Mahony in action against BJ Botha and Dave O'Callaghan

David Wallace

Everything seems to be pointing in the right direction for Munster to put in a big push towards the end of the season - but a win this weekend is crucial if they want to keep their home semi-final aspirations alive.

Obviously when you are playing Treviso at home everyone will be thinking this is a game they will win and all of the talk will surround a potential four-try bonus point but the most important thing first off is to get the win.

It's easy to forget, with the way the new European format works, that Treviso still have a lot to play for even at this late stage of this season.

Ultimately, they are 11th in the Pro12 standings, three points ahead of Zebre but they need to keep that position if they are to qualify for next season's Champions Cup.

So it will be interesting to see the challenge they put up at Irish Independent Park tomorrow - I expect them to bring their A game.

But Munster are a top side, we know that after what we have seen so far this season, and maybe the Champions Cup didn't do them justice but their form since then certainly has. They are in a good place right now, the mood is good, so is the fitness of key players with guys coming into form as well.

Long-term absentees are returning from injury and despite the retirement of Damien Varley earlier in the season, with Mike Sherry making strides in his return to play it's a big shot in the arm. The hooking department is now faced with an embarrassment of riches. Duncan Casey has been a rock for them all season, you have Eusebio Guinazu as well, Kevin O'Byrne and Niall Scannell coming through the ranks so there is plenty of depth in the No 2 jersey right now.

It's the right time of the season for coach Anthony Foley to be facing some selection headaches and it's not just at hooker where he will need time to make a decision before selecting his team.

The internationals have come back with a bang and their addition into a squad that was already brimming with confidence can only be a good thing.

Donnacha Ryan is finally back and looking in good shape, Keith Earls is in the form of his life after his injury lay-off and these are all players that would get into most starting XVs throughout the Pro12 league.


So with three rounds remaining and heading into a must-win game at home the signs are all good.

After this one it will be all eyes on Ulster for what could prove to be a home semi-final decider but if Munster get the win against Treviso then you would feel their position would be strengthened in the race for the home semi-final.

If results elsewhere were to go their way this weekend, Munster could go top and starting plotting their way to the final but I'm sure that won't be part of the players' psyche ahead of the game.

The league leaders Glasgow make the difficult journey to the Sportsground tomorrow and Munster know more than anyone how treacherous that could be.

It would be fantastic if Connacht could help their neighbours out and get a win there and it would blow the whole thing wide open in the race for the home semi-final spots.

Ulster and Leinster is going to be another classic and after what happened in Marseille last weekend, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Leinster went there and got a win.

They played some good rugby against a great Toulon side and were minutes away from reaching a Champions Cup decider so who knows what kick they have left in them towards the end of the season.

For once, I am sure all of Munster will be cheering them on and if they can beat Ulster the turnaround would be massive in terms of points' difference.

Ospreys take on Cardiff in their regional derby at the Millennium Stadium and those games can go either way really so it's quite conceivable that Munster could enter the penultimate round in the driving seat.

It would be the ideal scenario but nothing is predictable in this game and after what happened in the Champions Cup last weekend who knows what Round 20 in the Pro12 could throw up.

First things first for Munster, they need to beat Treviso. If they could hold up their end of the bargain, hopefully Connacht and Leinster can do likewise.

Irish Independent

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