Sunday 18 February 2018

Home comfort can help to ease blues

Returning stars need to hit the ground running against in-form Welsh

O’Mahony wins possession in a line-out ahead of team-mate Fineen Wycherley. Photo: Sportsfile
O’Mahony wins possession in a line-out ahead of team-mate Fineen Wycherley. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Munster will hope for a much-improved performance at home to Cardiff Blues this weekend but they have the potential to get back to winning ways after a tough night in Glasgow.

Munster beat Glasgow four times last season between the league and Champions Cup so the hosts had a massive point to prove in Scotstoun.

Glasgow are certainly on the up and they have won all of their games in the league this season. They are playing with power and speed throughout their squad, and then when you add in the 4G pitch, that surface plays in Glasgow's favour.

It's going to be a steep learning curve for Munster but I feel a result like that will sharpen their minds after the first three games where they might not have been playing the very best in the league.

The Ospreys were supposedly a step up from Benetton Rugby and Cheetahs, but Munster couldn't have expected that there was going to be such a gulf heading to Glasgow.

Hopefully, it won't dent their confidence too much either. But it will be used as a learning experience and these players are too experienced - how they react will be all-important.

Rassie Erasmus said the defeat to Glasgow was Munster's worst performance in 40 games and the players will be itching to get out and put things right.

Munster have such a depth of talent in their ranks and Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray will add massively to the cause if they are brought in this weekend.

From my experience, coming back later into the season after a delayed pre-season, where you play your first game in Rounds 3 or 4, is very difficult.

Your team-mates and opponents are generally more up to speed with the physicality and match fitness, and attacking structures. You have to try that extra ten per cent.

I remember in 2004 where I only got two opportunities in the wrong position and it ended up writing off a full season for me. From the point on I was always conscious that I had to hit the ground running in the first match.

Results

Munster have strengthened their squad massively and I expect them to grow together as a unit and start picking off some big results in the coming weeks and months.

There certainly won't be anyone in that squad pressing panic buttons and freaking out about losing one game to Glasgow. They will be critical of themselves and that can be a major plus in the wider scheme.

So what will be the big learnings? You can't afford to miss front-up tackles and there needs to be more ownership when it comes to that. A coach can only put the structures in place and make sure guys are up to speed technically. But if guys are missing one-on-one tackles there is very little a coach can do.

Maybe the surface last week exaggerated that where half-breaks turned into clean breaks and Glasgow were coming onto it at speed and finishing off those chances. But it's back to the familiar surrounds of Thomond Park this weekend and a tough clash with an in-form Cardiff Blues side.

They nearly defeated Glasgow a couple of weeks ago and then they upset Connacht at home so they will be very dangerous playing on that high.

The centre partnership of Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo is likely to be a central part of their attack once again.

But there is plenty more to that Cardiff Blues squad, and Munster need to be wary not to go in here expecting to bounce back from their defeat to Glasgow Warriors just because they have favouritism and home advantage.

I really fancied Cardiff to make strides last year. They didn't live up to it then but they have lots of international standard players and if they do find their feet they could be aiming for a play-off position later in the campaign.

They have the likes of Alex Cuthbert and Tom James, real attacking threats out wide. Nick Williams will always have his point to prove against Munster too. He is a wrecking ball and will be another massive threat this weekend. Cardiff certainly have the potential to come over and cause an upset.

Irish Independent

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