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'He's due some big starts in big games... there's a real battle for 9'

Bernard Jackman feels Craig Casey is pushing Conor Murray harder than ever in Munster.

Craig Casey scored two tries against Cardiff.
Craig Casey scored two tries against Cardiff.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

CRAIG CASEY’S SCINTILLATING form for Munster continued with another lively showing off the bench on Friday night as Johann van Graan’s men beat Cardiff to move to second in the URC table.

23-year-old Casey is now putting major pressure on Conor Murray, Munster’s longstanding first-choice at scrum-half, as discussed by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra podcast for members of The42.

With the southern province now preparing for Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against defending champions Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium, Casey’s form could be a key weapon.

Bernard: “I think there’s a real battle for nine. Conor’s form is better than it was but now with Casey, every chance he gets to play has shown that Munster playing fast are more dangerous.

“It’s the same for Leinster and both teams will come up against opposition who can match them physically at some stage and then it’s a case of how quick your speed of ball can be so you don’t give the opposition time to rest.

“Sometimes in the URC, let’s be honest, the Irish provinces can play off slow ball because their power overcomes the Welsh, Scots, and Italians. You get a false sense of security with that, so I think Casey is pushing really hard and that partnership he has with Conor is a real strength Munster have, whether it’s Craig or Conor coming off the bench.”

Murray: “I was going to come to the nine thing next because it really is a live debate now with Casey’s incredible impacts on the game, his match-winning abilities that he brings.

“Conor Murray, as you rightly point out, is playing pretty good rugby and does lots of good things. He would have been disappointed with the first Cardiff last weekend, he’s usually such a reliable one-on-one defender.

“What are you thinking? Does Casey need to start now given his ability to help Munster break teams apart?”

Bernard: “The biggest problem Craig had was that he was only really getting game time off the bench for long periods. Now he’s actually got some opportunities to start and he has shown that when he plays, Munster have a different dimension.

“I do think it is a big debate. Whether Graham Rowntree or Johann van Graan – I don’t know who is picking the team for the rest of the season – go for Casey, I’m not sure.

“But I certainly think he is now really pushing. And it’s important that he does because Nathan Doak is really benefitting from the game time he’s getting in Ulster and he’s another class performer.

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“If Craig wasn’t getting many minutes for Munster, he could fall out of that Irish reckoning, which would be very harsh on him. It’s so important for those young players to get enough minutes to show what they can do.

“He is certainly getting those minutes and what he has done so far, you would say he’s due some big starts in big games.”

Elsewhere on today’s podcast, Bernard, and Murray discussed Munster’s good form in recent weekends, as well as chatting about Leinster’s positive trip to South Africa, Ulster’s show of resilience in Edinburgh, and Connacht’s latest collapse.

The lads also reflected on the dramatic last-gasp win for Ireland Women over Scotland in the Six Nations, as well as the Ireland Women’s 7s team’s success in Canada.

And they celebrated a superb season of All-Ireland League rugby which culminated in Clontarf beating Terenure in a thrilling final at the Aviva.

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie.

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