Thursday 19 July 2018

Lots to build on as we aim to fly in Europe looms large

Postponement disrupts schedule but all will be dealt with capably

Munster's Simon Zebo
Munster's Simon Zebo

David Wallace

Munster are now a comfortable second in Conference 'A' Guinness PRO14 with just a couple of games remaining before the Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulon.

The postponement of this evening's game in Edinburgh will see a re-jigging of the schedule, but they will take that on board.

It was so important to win in Simon Zebo's last game in Cork last weekend. And that 21-10 victory over Glasgow Warriors was a statement of intent from this Munster outfit.

Munster were well in control throughout. It is fantastic when you compare it to the week before, when Tyler Bleyendaal had to rescue a losing bonus point at the very end in Cardiff Arms Park. 

From defeat in Cardiff, it was great to bounce back against a team who are sailing high on top of Conference 'A'. It was also great for the young guys involved, to take their chance against a top side like Glasgow. They must be happy with how they performed and the outcome that followed.

It's brilliant to have Tyler back now and starting games too. He has been to the fore in the last few seasons. It's great for Keats that he is playing so well, and now Munster have three players vying for that 10 jersey, with JJ Hanrahan another viable option, while Bill Johnston is coming up through the ranks. 

Ian Keatley
Ian Keatley

Munster need that in such an important position heading towards Toulon. The French are on a high at the moment following their win over La Rochelle in the Top 14. They are going to be very difficult opposition. Looking at their backline and their squad in general, it is star-studded across the board. 

Thankfully lots of players are coming back at the right time. It is actually very similar to this time last year, where the injuries have come right. Munster have their internationals in such good form too. Chris Farrell has a picked an injury at a very unlucky time for him after he was unbelievable against Wales.

But Conor Murray, Pete, Keith Earls, CJ Stander, and John Ryan will all take a lot from that game too. 

The important thing is Munster maintained second position in Conference 'A' last weekend. It doesn't really matter whether you finish top or not. Leinster finished well clear at the top of the seedings in the Champions Cup, and then they ended up getting Saracens on a Sunday, not an ideal fixture at all. 

Better

 Finishing first doesn't always mean you are in a better position. Consolidating your position in the top two is more important at this stage. Munster are clear of the Cheetahs and they need to maintain that gap.

Now they go from one Scottish side to the next, albeit with a bigger gap between the games than scheduled. Edinburgh and Glasgow were always difficult to go and play against. You really need to have the top six inches right going over there. If you are in any way off, they will sense blood. 

Scottish rugby is on a high right now, and rightly so. You look at the atmosphere in Murrayfield last weekend, and it's a long time since we have seen that. There is a sense within the public and players over there that they might be heading for some special times. 

They have had a long drought, not only on the field where they may not have had the results, but off the field too, there was an apathy and that's gone now. It's massive in terms of building momentum that the crowd and supporters are there. 

The feedback of positivity is there when you do achieve something that you are getting mental reward for it. It's something that was very evident at the weekend. Scottish rugby is on a high and Edinburgh are very much part of that. It will be a big win if Munster go over there and win in a couple of weeks. 

Edinburgh have beaten teams like Leinster and Ulster as part of their recent run, and they won comfortably at Dragons last weekend. 

Edinburgh are third in Conference 'B' chasing Scarlets, and they are in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals too, so they have a lot to be shouting about. 

They don't exactly have household names when their internationals are away, but there is a massive team work ethic there and they gel well together. It's a mark of their strength in depth that they are performing without their biggest players.

Irish Independent

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