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'It’s nice when the young dogs get into the neighbourhood and they start lifting their legs'

Rassie Erasmus is pleased at the squad depth that is building at Munster after watching several of the province’s young players impress.

WHILE RASSIE ERASMUS was quick to add a layer of perspective on top of his side’s perfect start to the season, there have been plenty of encouraging signs for the Munster director of rugby to take pleasure from.

Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell scores a try and is congratulated by Jack O’Donoghue Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Devoid of any real creative spark in season-defining defeats to Saracens and Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium last term, there are already signs of huge improvement in Munster’s attacking intentions in the opening two games of this campaign.

There will be much sterner challenges than home outings against Treviso and the Cheetahs to come, but the early indications are very positive with Felix Jones’ promotion to attack coach reaping instant dividends.

On the opening weekend, it was clear Munster had worked on a more free-flowing and expansive style of play as they looked to offload the ball in contact while support runners meant they possessed far more potency in attack. It was the same again on Saturday against the Cheetahs.

Granted the level of opposition, and their leaky defences, meant the home side didn’t need to be as accurate as is normally required at this level — something Erasmus was keen to stress post-match on Saturday — but it has been a positive step in the right direction; a work in progress.

Alex Wootton stole the show at Thomond Park as he did the bulk of the damage with four tries but the overall performance of Munster’s back three — the 23-year-old, Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam — has been one of the big standouts from the opening two weekends.

The centre partnership of Jaco Taute and new arrival Chris Farrell is beginning to blossom, and their power in midfield has been complimented nicely by the pace and guile of the back three.

“It’s nice to have that but as I say I have also seen things happen, we are playing really well and then the next week you get a massive smack in the face,” Erasmus said, when asked about his side scoring 14 tries in two games.

Alex Wootton and Titi Tebaldi Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“It’s nice that things are working but it’s working against certain defensive systems. The Cheetahs have a drifting defence which makes it a little bit easier to get yards. Next week you face a defence that pushes really hard and puts you under pressure.

“It worked for us in the first two weeks but from tomorrow we will focus on next weekend and the challenges that next week will have. But I am going to lie if I say I am not happy with the way we are attacking currently, and defending.”

On the performance of Wootton and several of the younger players coming through, Erasmus added: “In Afrikaans there is a saying it will probably come out the wrong way, it’s nice when the young dogs get into the neighbourhood and they start lifting their legs and showing the old dogs there is guys coming through.

“There is a few guys like Fineen Wycherley, Sean O’Connor second full 80 minutes that he has played, Liam O’Connor. Guys competing with international guys and putting up their hands. James Hart getting a nice run, it’s positive and then there is still the Earlsy that most come back, Zebo was on the bench today.

“Munster is building a nice squad and there is healthy competition. We are a bit thin at second-row at this stage which is unfortunate with all of the injuries we have had but yes it’s great when young guys take the opportunities. Apart from the tries, the other things Alex did, his tackling and working with the back-three together. His work-rate was awesome. And the beautiful tries he scored.

Rassie Erasmus Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s [Wootton] definitely physical, he’s got outright pace, maybe aerially he’s not as good as Sweets and Conway and Earlsie and those guys but he’ll get there and he’s working hard at it but he’s a young fit guy. He’s physical and he’s got outright pace and he’ll get found out on his weaker points as he goes on but the way he works.

“Earlsie is helping him and Zeebs is helping him and there’s five or six guys working really well together in  the back three and he’s got a bright future. It’s up to him to make sure he always develops with every game and we are trying to help him to do that.”

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