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Murray, O'Mahony and O'Connell lead the way as Ireland set standard

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Munster captain Peter O'Mahony has been in brilliant form for Ireland in the two Six Nations games to date

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony has been in brilliant form for Ireland in the two Six Nations games to date

SPORTSFILE

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony has been in brilliant form for Ireland in the two Six Nations games to date

That was a very clinical performance by Ireland last Saturday and it really sets up a mouth-watering clash against England in Twickenham next week.

A victory there will leave Ireland in strong contention for the Championship, even if there is still the matter of visiting Paris, where our record is not so good.

That win over Wales, and in particular the manner of it, will send confidence levels soaring. It really was impressive stuff.

Wales are a good team and Ireland knew that if they allowed them to get on the front foot then they would be in trouble.

But I thought Ireland played a very intelligent game. Due credit has gone to Joe Schmidt and his management team but ultimately it is the players who have to go out and do it and it is such a fine line in Test rugby.

The score may have suggested an easy win for Ireland but that game was all about winning every small battle.

Ireland contained them in the tackle and at the breakdown and played a great territorial game.

Conor Murray's box-kicking, which they use so often, was excellent as always and Ireland kept them pushed back.

That meant that, even if Wales managed to burst through the cover, the defence would be able to deal with them, and in the end the visitors were just not allowed play.

The game plan was excellently implemented and they will head for Twickenham in good fettle.

In fairness, England should also be going into that match with two wins under their belt but the bounce of the ball went against them a few times against France.

There may not be as many Munster lads in the Irish squad at the moment as former years but I thought they did an excellent job.

OUTSTANDING

Paul O'Connell is in great shape at the moment and turned in a huge hour. He has been in top form over the last six months, Murray again showed he is a world-class No 9, while Peter O'Mahony was really outstanding.

His work at the breakdown was unreal and he won several key turnovers inside his own '22' while any time he carried he made ground.

Tommy O'Donnell also did well in the few minutes he got and I think you will see him making more and more of an impact as the campaign goes on.

He is learning and learning all the time but he is also making the most of every minute he gets.

Donnacha Ryan should also come back into the equation. He will welcome the run against Zebre this weekend and with Dan Tuohy unfortunately suffering that broken arm last weekend, the opportunity is now there for Donnacha.

That's the way it works in rugby. Donnacha has had to sit on the sideline with injury and watch others impress but now it has come round for him.

I wouldn't rule out Donncha O'Callaghan coming into the frame as well.

He is playing fantastic rugby and it will be a big occasion for him when he becomes Munster's most capped player this weekend.

It is a credit to him and testimony to the way he has minded himself over the years.

He doesn't drink and rarely eats out and in all the years I have known him he takes every single opportunity to make himself fitter and stronger and look after himself.

That's why he is still going so strong and he will go on for another few years.

I thought Munster did a fine job in eventually making their superiority count against Cardiff last weekend.

That was the first step they had to take after the surprise news on Thursday that Rob Penney was leaving, and they showed on Saturday that the change of coaching team is not going to be allowed impact on what happens on the field.

They should be able to follow it up with another win and probably a bonus point tomorrow against Zebre and it's vital that they do because it is still tight at the top of the table.

And, as has been said many times, the points you pick up when you are without your internationals at this time of year are the same value as you get from any other match throughout the season.

It is also a chance for lads to make their case for permanent places in the squad and that's important as there is great competition among the players at the moment in Munster.

I expect Munster to go out and deliver another big performance and copperfasten their position at the top of the table and I would expect a few lads to put their hands up for Joe Schmidt to take notice as the countdown begins in earnest to that clash with the English next week.

 

Bringing national side to the people the way forward

It was a pity that the open training session with the Ireland squad in Clonmel had to be cancelled due to the bad weather earlier this week.

But it is a great concept to move Irish squad training to venues such as Clonmel and fair play to the team management for making the effort.

The weather conspired against them and the region got a hammering from the storm so, regrettably, it was the right call to abandon the open session.

We used to do a fair bit of training at club grounds when I was with Munster. It worked well on a number of fronts – it was something new for the players and management and freshened things up, while it also gave communities throughout the province a chance to see things up close.

We had very enjoyable sessions in Cashel, Tralee, Clanwilliam, Waterford, Bruff and many other places.

In fairness, it takes a good bit of effort to move the likes of Munster around the province – a lot of extra work for the management and logistics people – so I can only imagine the amount of effort involved in bringing the national squad.

Fair play to them for doing it and it is a pity the weather turned so foul, but hopefully it will be the first of many such trips by the Irish squad.

The storm has also put most of the schools matches on hold until after the mid-term break so we have another couple of weeks in Rockwell to get out preparations sorted for our clash with Munchin's.

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