Real dangers await in Italy but this is a game Munster must win in race for top spot

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Real dangers await in Italy but this is a game Munster must win in race for top spot


Tyler Bleyendaal
Tyler Bleyendaal

With just eight days to go before Munster return to Champions Cup semi-final action against Saracens, all eyes will be trained on Treviso tonight as the province seek victory to boost their Guinness PRO14 ambitions.

As expected, many of Munster’s leaders have been rested for this game, and it could end up being a real battle for the points against a Benetton side that are playing the best rugby of their franchise history.

But at this stage of the season there is no room for mistakes, and I expect Munster to show real strength in Italy and claim the win.

Convincing Last weekend they were convincing winners over Cardiff in the end. They ran in six good tries even though there was plenty of guys filtering back. Cardiff are a team chasing a play-off, and have been playing well, and they picked a few holes in Munster on the night. They identified a few places to attack and it’s important that Munster’s shape in defence and attack is on song in time for the Saracens game.

It was interesting to see them kick to touch from box-kicks too. Instead of trying to retain possession from Conor Murray’s kicks as they usually do, he looked to find touch for the most part. Cardiff’s lineout was struggling and perhaps they sought to attack that area of the game, but it was an interesting change in tactics.

Alby Mathewson was only on for a short period but he looked sharp. His kicking was good and he brought something different to the table. I think the better surfaces in the weeks ahead will suit Alby, starting this evening in Italy.

On the front foot, I thought Dave Kilcoyne and Kevin O’Byrne were impressive and they carried very well, while JJ Hanrahan did really well when he came on too. It was really good to see Sammy Arnold back in the team. A try with your first touch is a brilliant return to action and he’s a guy I think will be keen to make a big impact in the last few weeks of the season.

It is also very pleasing to see that Tyler Bleyendaal (below) is showing his full repertoire again and with Joey Carbery almost certain to miss out next weekend, it’s a huge chance for him. He hasn’t had much game-time since he came back but the signs are he is getting better every day. Regardless of whether Carbery is back or not, it’s great to have him fit and well.

Their last-minute try caught the headlines at the RDS but I thought Benetton looked very dominant against Leinster – albeit the home side were a good bit short of their full strength. They controlled the ball really well through long phases of play and waited for their chance to pounce.

This is a very dangerous game for Munster. Benetton are chasing a play-off place in Conference B, they are currently in third place and a bonus-point win will guarantee them a place in the quarter-finals. They are also still very much in the hunt for second place in their group, and they’d like nothing better than to qualify in style with Munster in town.

Considering Munster have made a few changes for the trip to Treviso and a few of their internationals are not involved at all ahead of the Saracens game, this is a real test of the depth of Munster’s squad.

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From what I’ve seen, Benetton are a real force to be reckoned with. Their wingers Monty Ioane and Ratuva Tavuyara after very talented, fast and powerful, so Munster will need to defend very well against them. Their No 8, Toa Halafihi, is an experienced guy who played at the highest level in New Zealand.

But from a Munster point of view, they have to believe they can win out there. If they have intentions of topping their pool and winning the competition it’s one that the squad players have to deliver in. Just because you are playing away without some of your leaders is no reason to shy away from the challenge.

With Glasgow away in Leinster tomorrow, it is the perfect opportunity for Munster to deliver and give themselves a real chance of finishing top of the table.

The announcement that Johann van Graan has signed up for another two years is good news for the province and I’m sure the players are pleased.

This is a young coaching team and I think they’ve worked very well together. It remains to be seen if they decide to bring in extra help in the coming months, but for now they have a busy few weeks ahead to focus on. A win tonight is of paramount importance.

Irish Independent


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