Monday 24 September 2018

Scots sure to test the limits of this team

Impact of youth against Ulster a big positive for the future

Stephen Fitzgerald turned in a display full of promise against Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Fitzgerald turned in a display full of promise against Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Edinburgh will provide a big test for Munster this weekend. It's a very different Edinburgh side to this time last year, a resurgent team full of confidence, and Munster need to build on the promise they showed at Thomond Park last weekend.

A draw was an interesting result, but it was probably a good one, given that Ulster were coming down with a strong team and had a lot to play for, in terms of qualification for the play-offs and finishing a tough season on a high.

It was an excellent second-half performance from the hosts and they managed to keep Ulster scoreless and claw back a ten-point deficit. There were a few blips in the first half but that's understandable when you have a team that aren't used to playing with each other.

They will be a little bit disappointed not to have won at home, but it's good to see some young talent getting the chance against good quality opposition.

Calvin Nash was brilliant. He was energetic in all he did and looked really sure of himself in the way he defended while also making a lot of double efforts. It's a great sign of the right attitude when a player makes a tackle, reloads and is hungry to make another tackle, and then in attack he looked electric when he had the ball.

Stephen Fitzgerald looked promising too as did Dan Goggin. The young guys in the back line really stepped up, James Hart's distribution skills were very slick too.

Keith Earls hard at work. Photo: Sportsfile
Keith Earls hard at work. Photo: Sportsfile

The back-row played well too. Jack O'Donoghue goes from strength to strength, Conor Oliver had a nice couple of turnovers and Robin Copeland carried athletically. He is hitting good form and the harder ground suits his game. He will be a big loss when he goes to Connacht but that is part and parcel of the game. On the flip side, Munster will be welcoming one of the country's brightest prospects in Tadhg Beirne.

As the game went on last weekend there was some brilliant defence from Munster. One fine example started with an Ulster lineout not far from Munster's line. By the end of many phases Ulster had been shunted back well behind the Munster 22.

ATTACK It's always a very positive thing when you're using your defence as a form of attack, and marching the opposition down the field. Players will gain huge confidence from that and it will be massive for the young guys and the new combinations.

But it's all about Edinburgh now. Scottish rugby has had a big revival in recent years with Glasgow blazing a trail for the past number of years. Now they have been joined by Edinburgh under Richard Cockerill.

They will be a challenging opponent and from watching the way Edinburgh defeated Glasgow last weekend, it looked like they wanted to put down a statement of intent, in terms of beating a high-flying Glasgow side.

Although Edinburgh will be playing away from home, Munster will be pushed to the limit. All going well it's a tough run-in for Munster. If they can keep winning, this will be the easiest of their last three games.

It's that stage of the season when you want to be playing and peaking in the big games and battling with the best.

Munster will be disappointed to lose out against Racing 92 a couple of weeks ago but in terms of where this team is going these upcoming games are very important to not only win some silverware, but to help build the squad's maturity and momentum.

It's about building a confidence and a mentality of winning big games. When you have Edinburgh, then hopefully Glasgow away and potentially a Leinster or a Scarlets in the final, it doesn't get much more difficult.

These games could be massive for a blossoming Munster side. When take into consideration the age profile it's a very young squad with its best years ahead, not many guys in their 30s, a lot of guys in their mid-20s and younger still.

The progression graph is very much climbing and you would hope that the experience of these highly competitive games to finish the season, with hopefully some silverware, would catapult them to greater things in years to come. There's a lot to play for.

Irish Independent

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