Saturday 20 October 2018

No need to fear Parisian challenge

Solid game management and defence will win out

Copeland is all smiles at training. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Copeland is all smiles at training. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

David Wallace

You need to be ruthless if you want to compete with the best teams in the big games. Munster showed that in abundance last weekend, but Racing 92 will be another step up in the Champions Cup this time out. 

Quinn Roux's yellow card had a big part to play in the victory over Connacht, and in years gone by having a player sin-binned never seemed as influential. But the way the game is now it is having more of an impact.

This is magnified even further when you lose two players, as was the case when Munster lost Fineen Wycherley and Sam Arnold against Ulster, and the game was turned on its head. But it's positive that cards are having an impact, and teams have the ability to exploit extra numbers.

It makes you wary of giving away penalties and getting binned. It will keep teams honest and hopefully free up the game and make it a better spectacle.

Conor Oliver got man of the match in that victory against Connacht, and I'm a big fan. It's great to see him back after a bit of lay-off. He always creates an impact all over the pitch. 

Chris Cloete is a bulkier version of Oliver. Openside is always an attritional position so you get your fair share of injuries there. Tommy O'Donnell is another big option in that position and it shows the amount of depth Munster have. 

Conor Murray will be a big partof Sunday’s game plan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Murray will be a big partof Sunday’s game plan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Irish rugby is in a really good place with two or three top-quality players available in all 15 positions. It's only in the last few years that Munster have developed that. 

The Munster back-row is a solid unit, and the same can be said for the second-row with Fineen Wycherley and Darren O'Shea adding their youthful exuberance. 

The front-row is well stacked and it was great to see Mike Sherry back in a Munster jersey. He has had a few tough years. You also have Duncan Casey, Niall Scannell, Rhys Marshall and Kevin O'Byrne, there is a massive list of high-quality hookers. Munster have two sets of internationals at loosehead and tighthead prop as well.

But for me the standout area is the outside backs. Keith Earls is back to his best, Andrew Conway is having a stunning season and there is plenty of depth behind those guys.

Munster would have been disappointed with the first half against Leinster and the second half at Ulster. They could have got more from both games, so to get such a comprehensive victory against Connacht is so important before they head into Racing 92. 

Racing were in great form when they hammered Clermont at the weekend, but Munster are four points clear of Racing and the French will aim to bring themselves right back into contention.

Despite being on the road Munster are in a very strong position so they will want, at the very least, a bonus point from this game. But they should look for the win. If their defence is as tight and stingy as it was against Racing when they played them at Thomond Park, and against Leicester Tigers, they should have enough up the other end to get the victory. 

Looking at the Racing game last weekend, they were allowed to throw the ball around and play in the right areas of the pitch. Munster won't give them the same platform to attack. The French might be slightly complacent after that result. 

They have a huge pack, and with their ability to offload and get in behind you they can do damage. But having that claustrophobic effect on Racing again should pave the way for a Munster victory.

If Racing get their tails up it can be a long day but Munster need to stay in the hunt. French teams tire and sometimes switch off. No matter what way the game goes, Munster need to play the whole 80 and back their fitness to finish stronger.

Donnacha Ryan will have a great understanding of the Munster lineout. He won't know the calls but will have an idea of what Munster are going to attempt. 

It's one thing knowing what a team is trying to do and another to stop it. If he is calling the defensive lineouts, speed and precision will beat them every time. If Munster get that right, hopefully they can nullify Ryan's threat.

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