Friday 14 December 2018

New arrivals continue to shine as all focus switches to Warriors revenge mission

Joey Carbery is happy with life at Munster
Joey Carbery is happy with life at Munster

David Wallace

With seven points in the bag after the opening rounds of the Champions Cup, you'd have to be delighted with the position Munster are in.

Only Saracens, Newcastle, Toulouse and Racing 92 have won both of their games and Munster's pool is the only one without a 100 per cent record in it.

The big downer from the weekend is the injuries. Hopefully Dan Goggin's knee injury is not too serious, Tommy O'Donnell got some good news that he didn't break his leg but still faces some time out with an ankle injury, while Rhys Marshall is out for a spell too with his hamstring injury.

A hand injury for Arno Botha is a blow too and at a time when there are so many players heading off with Ireland, those guys are all important leaders.

The referee was quick to whistle throughout, and in the closing stages he certainly heaped the punishment on Munster. I thought a lot of the late ones were harsh and in the end Munster were pinged ten times in the last quarter of an hour. That's more than enough for a full game and you'd imagine it will be much better this week, for whatever reason.

Eye-catching While I was very impressed with Sammy Arnold after he came on, the real eye-catching displays came from some of the new signings. Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne were outstanding again, Botha was another that impressed and Mike Haley had his best game so far. The skill level of these players is impressive, but also the work ethic they have shown is very positive.

Carbery is very quickly becoming a fans' favourite and there's more to it than his scintillating running and passing talents: it was his defensive work that impressed me against Gloucester. He made a few tackles on Matt Banahan and Ben Morgan, and he showed clever technique to make his tackles stick.

Beirne continues to show why he is one of Europe's top forwards now. We saw all the handling - and kicking - skills from him, but that one maul he split apart to force the turnover was outstanding. He has got to be giving Joe Schmidt a real selection headache.

Ireland are blessed with talent in the second-row, but you cannot ignore Beirne now. On current form he has to be in that starting team come the Six Nations.

This was a convincing Munster win, but I think Gloucester only have themselves to blame. They were being penalised for high tackling from the start and they never changed their tackle technique. Even after a yellow and red they kept doing it. Munster were no angels either and Stephen Archer was punished at the death, but Gloucester can have no complaints.

It was a shame because they were right in the tie before the cards. Their first 15 minutes were good, they had quality territory and possession and only trailed by two points when Cipriani was sent off. They caused Munster problems and who knows what might have happened if it stayed 15 versus 15.

One thing I didn't understand was why Gerbrandt Grobler didn't start. He was desperate to impress, made such an impact after his introduction, he scored their try and as soon as he arrived he made Munster think at the lineout. His physicality was impressive and with another hour to influence the game it could have been a very different occasion. The signs are that they will be a massively tough opponent when Munster go to Kingsholm in round five in January.

But all focus switches back to the Guinness PRO14 now and it's a tough return. It seems like no length of time since Munster played Glasgow last, and after a tough night in Scotstoun they certainly owe the Warriors a beating. It's always a tough game against them, but they managed to blow Munster away with their first-half display last time out.

There was a lot of changes to the team at that early stage of the season and since then things have settled down. It looks like we could see a lot more alterations again this week with so many injuries and player welfare coming into action, and it could be the same with Glasgow considering they have 15 or 16 players involved with Scotland.

Incorrectly Certainly both squads will have been boosted by their Champions Cup campaigns. Warriors were very unlucky against Saracens when a try was incorrectly awarded against them at a key time, but then they showed their class against Cardiff last time out with a rare bonus-point victory away from home in Europe.

Injuries are prevalent right across the pitch, but after having so much competition in recent weeks, the back-row is now a little stretched. O'Donnell, Botha, Dave O'Callaghan, Jack O'Donoghue and Conor Oliver are all on the injured list, while CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony could well miss out due to player welfare time.

There is a big responsibility on Chris Cloete now, and we could see the likes of Gavin Coombes get game-time in the coming weeks. It's a massive chance for those guys to play for the senior team at Thomond Park against a top-class opposition.

There is quality strength in depth in the province though and now it the chance for the next generation to show their talents. These are the games that separate the top teams come the end of the season and at Thomond Park only a win will suffice.

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