Sport Munster Rugby

Friday 23 March 2018

Youth and new arrivals make the difference

Breakdown battle will be critical for Rassie's troops against Ospreys

Francis Saili. Photo: Sportsfile
Francis Saili. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Even with all of the internationals away Munster still have such a strong side. And it's good to see Irish Independent Park being so full and treated to a fantastic brand of rugby, while Munster picked up a bonus point win last weekend.

Munster are building such strength in depth now and when players like Jean Kleyn and Rhys Marshall come in as project players, these guys aren't there to earn a hefty wage packet and then head back home, they are contributing massively.

But then again when they come into a winning team, they really want to be a part of that. And with the silky New Zealand skills of Marshall, and Kleyn's South African physicality, they have been two very smart acquisitions.

They proved that once again against Dragons, and although Jaco Taute isn't in that same bracket, having previously being capped by the Springboks, long may his sensational form last.

He added two more tries last weekend and looks unstoppable when he's close to the line - guys are almost afraid to tackle him.

And then looking at the replacements bench that Munster had against Dragons. Outside of Francis Saili, who only turned 26 yesterday, the Munster players were all extremely young there with names like O'Byrne, McCabe, Scott, O'Shea, Oliver, Griesel, and Goggin. Those guys all came on and made an impact. 

Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile

And that is something Rassie Erasmus is really trying to push here. He is all about giving those young guys their opportunities whenever they can, and I expect him to use the full extent of his squad during the Six Nations.

One man that's benefiting massively from the extra game-time is Conor Oliver. He has all of the attributes to become a really good flanker, and he's unique in Irish rugby at the moment.

Oliver is smaller and that allows him to use his fantastic agility to get to the breakdown a bit quicker. He has big future in the game.

And speaking of the breakdown, it doesn't get much bigger than facing-off against Ospreys, with guys like Sam Underhill in form, on their home patch in a top of the table game.

It doesn't matter that this one is on during the Six Nations - it is rest week in that competition and both sides will be strengthened for this one.


But even with a few of their Welsh guys back, the Munster squad trumps whatever Ospreys can throw at them. Munster are in such a rich vein of form at the moment and a lot of that is down to the health of the squad, so Erasmus will have big numbers to pick from once again.

It's obviously a cliché, but once you start winning matches, it gets into the psyche of the team, and the players can feel a sense of invincibility.

It's a huge test in the Liberty Stadium tomorrow, but hopefully Munster can come out on top and keep their campaign on track. They haven't done much wrong in recent weeks and months, and the players should deliver once again.

They must take huge confidence when they see the Irish team bouncing back in the Six Nations too, and the Munster players doing so well in the green jersey.

You run out of superlatives to describe how good CJ Stander is, and although no one is a shoo-in for the British & Irish Lions this early in the season, he is definitely a frontrunner.

But it was great to see Niall Scannell being given his chance and taking it. He has been great for Munster all season, and with his brilliant attitude he has the mindset to earn many more Irish caps.

Outside of that, the rest of the Munster guys did well too, with Simon Zebo and Keith Earls continuing to be a nuisance for the opposition, while Donnacha Ryan was very solid in the second-row.

And despite the level of opposition, Ireland looked good. Hopefully they can build on that nine-try win in the final three games. Obviously it will never be as comfortable against teams like France, Wales and England, but hopefully Ireland can get three wins.

There's an intriguing couple of months ahead, hopefully Ireland and Munster can both do the business.

Irish Independent

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