Sunday 16 December 2018

Red contingent lead Irish charge

Munster legend Paul O’Connell will provide vital leadership for his Irish team-mates
Munster legend Paul O’Connell will provide vital leadership for his Irish team-mates

John Fallon

Munster head into the first of the breaks for the World Cup in good fettle after CJ Stander's late try secured victory away to Ospreys on Sunday afternoon.

The attention will now switch to the World Cup for a few weeks, with Munster supporters hope their men play a leading role as Joe Schmidt's men bid for glory.

Paul O'Connell will lead the side into action in his final series of games for Ireland before his move to Toulon when the tournament finishes.

He will be joined up front by Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and Donnacha Ryan, who has done so well to battle back from injury to claim a place in the squad.

Keith Earls, likewise, had to endure months of rehab before he too played under Schmidt for the first time last month.

The Munster contingent behind the scrum is completed by scrum-half Conor Murray and Simon Zebo, with several other Reds on standby in case of injuries.

Munster go into the World Cup break boosted by two opening wins.

Edinburgh and Scarlets are the only other sides to have won both of their opening matches.

Edinburgh backed up their opening-day win over Leinster with a late victory away to Treviso.

And Scarlets, surprise opening-round winners in Glasgow - albeit the champions were without so many World Cup player - put Ulster to the sword at Parc y Scarlets last weekend.

Sunday's 20-18 win over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium saw new signings Mark Chisholm and Francis Saili make their competitive debuts for Munster.

And academy product Stephen Fitzgerald crowned his competitive debut with a try when the Irish U-20 international touched down after a superb crossfield kick from Tyler Bleyendaal.

Stander's crucial try was his third of the campaign, having scored twice in the second half to secure the opening-round win over Treviso.

He is one of four players to have scored three tries so far in the Pro12. Cardiff pair Rhys Patchell and Josh Turnbull both scored hat-tricks in the 61-13 opening-round win over Zebre.

And Edinburgh's Damien Hoyland has also managed three touchdowns in the wins over Leinster and Treviso.

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