Thursday 12 December 2019

Wallace: Time to start building up a head of steam

Good discipline is key ingredient if any team wants to capture trophies

The return of the likes of David Kilcoyne will give Munster coach Anthony Foley greater options. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
The return of the likes of David Kilcoyne will give Munster coach Anthony Foley greater options. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Foley speaks to his players during training ahead of tonight's game with Zebre. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

David Wallace

After getting their first win of the season under their belt away to Treviso last weekend, Munster will be very confident of making it a second win over Italian opposition at home to Zebre tonight.

The loss to Edinburgh is firmly in the past now, the players will have parked that, and with a convincing win and decent performance to their name last weekend, confidence will be high tonight.

There will be no chance of underestimating Zebre at all either. Slipping up at Thomond Park in week one means that shouldn't happen again and all the players will be bursting to show their home support their real talent.

I've had to rely on highlights to see what went on in Treviso, but from watching those and chatting to a few people that were there, there appears to have been a big overall improvement.

APPLAUDED

This has to go down as a good away win. It was Munster's first success out there in three years and on the back of a tough start to the season it has to be applauded.

After Edinburgh, Axel spoke on a few occasions of the level of physicality that is required in the game and it looks like that was back last weekend, especially in the first half. They certainly played more of their own game and managed to turn around an early deficit into a good lead.

They may have been a bit concerned about the amount of penalties they conceded after the break - there should always be a big emphasis placed on team discipline. Discipline is very important.

Just look at Ireland in last year's Six Nations: they only gave away 36 penalties in the competition - the next closest was France with 44 - and see what they achieved.

We always had a specific target going into a game and we were always keen to do well in the Specsavers fair play standings. Declan Kidney really pushed the importance of discipline and it annoyed me when we slipped down those standings in the last couple of seasons that I played.

If you concede penalties when attacking you lose vital possession, and in defence it means the concession of needless points, but it is an easy fix.

The form of Simon Zebo and CJ Stander is another positive from the first two weeks of the season. In the first year after he arrived it took CJ a little time to settle, but he looks like he is relishing it now and as a forward with a low centre of gravity he is almost impossible to stop when he builds up a head of steam.

Zebo certainly is looking very sharp, he is a real livewire. He probably feels that he has a bit of a point to prove from last year. He wasn't involved in the Six Nations campaign and maybe Joe Schmidt is inclined to go for a more standard, controlled player rather than one with the X-factor of Zebo. He is certainly giving him something to think about now, though.

While we won't see the likes of Stander involved tonight, the return of so many familiar faces means Axel has a great hand to play with.

Historically Munster have had 22 or 23 players that were usually selected for the Heineken Cup games but when those lads were rested or injured that the squad was stretched. If you look at English sides, rather than going for an all-star first 15 or 20, they instead aim to have double depth, and have two strong teams that are interchangeable, as they have a tougher schedule than our provinces.

EXPANDING

But slowly but surely, I think Munster's base is expanding. We now have James Cronin and Dave Kilcoyne back, Paulie is ready to slot in alongside Dave Foley, Donncha O'Callaghan or Billy Holland, the back-row is full of talent, and there are plenty of options in the backs too.

If all of those lads get game time in the next few weeks it will be tough to pick a starting 15 when European action comes along.

After tonight's home game with Zebre they host Ospreys next weekend, before the big one against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

It will be tough tonight, but with the quality of opposition increasing week on week from here on, it's crucial that Munster continue to build on their regained confidence with a win.

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