MUNSTER will take on Dai Young’s Cardiff Blues at Arms Park this Friday evening in the Guinness PRO14 (8pm KO).
The men in red put in a professional performance last weekend away to Edinburgh where they won 22-10 thanks to tries from Jack O’Donoghue, Craig Casey and Gavin Coombes. Munster put in an enormous defensive effort throughout and the forwards, led by captain Billy Holland, all had outstanding shifts to execute perfectly at the set-piece and breakdown.
Munster are likely to be without Ireland squad members Craig Casey, Chris Farrell, Shane Daly and Andrew Conway this week as the national team prepare to play Italy on Saturday. Thankfully, there are plenty of quality options around the squad these days and the trip to Wales could see young talent like Ben Healy and Liam Coombes help Munster to another victory.
Execution of basics and defensive discipline were the standout features of Saturday’s night’s fixture against Edinburgh and defence coach JP Ferreira will be hoping for more of the same this weekend.
“It was really good. I thought we had some really good defensive sets,” said the South African. “We had a three minute block on our goal line where we kept them out. It’s massive for us when after three minutes of defending on our own goal line we get a penalty or a free-kick – it just lifts everyone.
“I thought towards the end of the game, the last seven and a half minutes saw our best defensive efforts. That’s just because we were going after the ball and trying to get that bonus-point. It’s coming together nicely but it’s another test at the weekend and hopefully we can just crack on from where we left off.”
Munster sit top of Conference B after the victory on 46 points with 10 wins from 12 games. While the Edinburgh match was played in wet and windy conditions, consequentially seeing a brutish battle of the two packs for large periods, Munster also reminded people of their evolving attack. In the closing minutes Kevin O’Byrne, Andrew Conway and Billy Holland were among those to throw clever offloads to launch Munster up-field in pursuit of a bonus-point.
The ball handling of the forwards has been a major focus for assistant coach Stephen Larkham since his arrival at the UL HPC and speaking to the media today prop forward Liam O’Connor said he is happy to get his hands on the ball against Cardiff this weekend.
“Yeah I find myself very comfortable in that position. Playing GAA and soccer and things like that have helped me so I’d be pretty confident and comfortable out there no matter what a coach asks me to do. It’s a big game. They’re pushing for a European spot. They’re dangerous in midfield, they’re dangerous out wide so they’ll be raring to go.”
The match will be shown live this Friday on Eir Sport 1 (KO 8pm)