Monday 18 December 2017

Munster depth can deliver historic treble

Reds have enough quality to chase glory in Europe, PRO12 and B&I Cup

Conor Murray turns on the style during training. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray turns on the style during training. Photo: Sportsfile
Andrew Conway. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Munster are through to another Champions Cup semi-final and they are now just 160 minutes from raising the cup again for the first time in nine years.

It has been a few years in the making but they have made profound improvement this season.

It was a fascinating encounter which certainly disappoint in Thomond Park last weekend. It was very like 2014 too, because Toulouse kept in it, and it was close until the final quarter when Munster hit for home and they ran away with it.

You felt if the French had sneaked a penalty after Paul Perez touched down, it could really have come down to the wire. That was a theme going through the whole weekend in the quarter-finals.

Mould

The Saracens against Glasgow game was in that mould too, and likewise with Clermont and Leinster in their victories.

It ended up being a fairly big margin in Aviva Stadium. Leinster knew their luck was in when Willie Le Roux dropped the ball over the line, and they did well to grind it out against a good Wasps side.

The Irish are back and it's great to see two of the provinces in the semi-finals, even if they have two very difficult fixtures ahead with Munster playing reigning champions Saracens, and Clermont welcoming Leinster to France.

Munster will need a fully-fit squad for their game. Conor Murray is crucial, as are Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander, and it was worrying to see them all becoming injury worries after the weekend.

Outside of that, home advantage is massive in these games and the Munster supporters will surely turn the Aviva red again - it looks set to be a fantastic occasion.

A few of the Saracens contingent won't have great recent memories of that stadium either, the ones who lost their world record attempt playing for England against Ireland.

It's great to have the reigning Premiership and European Cup champions coming over. If Munster can win that game, you would fancy them against Clermont in Edinburgh, and a potential final against Leinster would be mouth-watering occasion for all concerned.

It's back to the bread and butter of the Guinness Pro12 for Munster this week and they will hope to keep the confidence and momentum flowing when they host Glasgow at Irish Independent Park.

A few of the Irish guys will have a point to prove against Glasgow, and the players won't forget all of those late tackles that went on Conor Murray - hopefully there won't be a repeat of that.

Munster will be really up for this game, but so will their opponents. Gregor Townsend's side will be smarting from losing in the Champions Cup and they will be hungry to get into the top four of the Pro12 too.

But Munster should have too much for them in Cork this weekend.

Munster's injury list has increased a bit, but luckily they have such depth in their squad, and a lot of young players have the experience required to step in and make an impact.

This weekend they could be a bit light in terms of numbers in the back-row, but they still have Jack O'Donoghue, Dave O'Callaghan, Conor Oliver and Robin Copeland to come in.

We talk about Leinster's depth but Munster have that class too.

With the A team getting to the B&I Cup final, it's just another big statement about the quality of depth throughout this Munster squad. And that gives them the opportunity to strike for silverware in yet another competition.

Flying high

The province is flying high and they will be looking to win both the Champions Cup and Pro12. This time last year Munster were fighting to make the Champions Cup for this season, and Axel Foley guided them through that really tough period.

That was a huge contributory factor for their success this. They would have missed out on an epic journey.

This weekend Leinster have a tough game away to Ospreys and that could open the door at the top of the Pro12. Leinster won't have it easy and if Munster can beat Glasgow they could go first. There is a big prize on offer.

Irish Independent

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