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'If Munster lose in Galway, there'd be concerns around them getting into Europe'

As discussed on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, Munster are still looking to find form.

Munster beat Zebre on Saturday in Cork.
Munster beat Zebre on Saturday in Cork.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Updated Oct 3rd 2022, 5:04 PM

MUNSTER ARE OFF the mark for the season but it wasn’t the kind of performance that dispels the nagging concerns about their slow start.

Graham Rowntree’s side missed out on a possible bonus point as they beat Zebre in Cork on Saturday, with their teething issues still clear.

Munster’s performance was discussed on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra - a podcast available to members of The42 every Monday and Wednesday - and Bernard Jackman highlighted how the increasingly competitive URC means Munster could come under pressure for European qualification unless their form improves soon.

“They’ll be very disappointed,” said former Grenoble and Dragons head coach Jackman.

“Zebre were quite poor. Even if their second half was better, their lineout was appalling. Some of that was down to good Munster defence, some of it was complete disorganisation on Zebre’s part. That was effectively the game.

“Munster’s maul was strong on the back of lots of lineout possession. The win will settle them a bit. They lost their two pre-season games and their first two URC games, so that was a must-win match, but I feel that the content of it wasn’t going to give much for them to tick the box on Monday morning.

“The maul was strong, they got the win, but there was no real fluidity to the match or their performance and they missed the bonus point. When you lose your first two, that bonus point could be crucial.

“Munster last week against Dragons were missing a few players who are on the Emerging Ireland tour and if that costs them a place in the Champions Cup… I know that sounds very drastic but to be honest, what we’ve seen in the first three games and with the South African teams winning their games, Munster really do need to start picking it up a bit.

“This week against Connacht is huge for them. If they were to lose this week in Galway, I think there would be genuine concerns around them getting into Europe and the financial repercussions of that. 

“But sometimes winning ugly, like a striker scoring a goal off his backside, can have a big effect. I’m sure the last three weeks have been quite negative and rightly so, but I’m sure this week the coaches will be trying to say, ‘Job done, we won, the rest will come.’”

peter-omahony-appeals-to-aj-jacobs-as-the-scrum-comes-up Munster weren't able to grab the bonus point. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

The42′s Murray Kinsella saw more signs of the style of play Rowntree and attack coach Mike Prendergast are looking to bring in with Munster, but there were more frustrations as the players continue to get used to the change.

“You can see they’re trying to bring that interplay,” said Kinsella.

“Let’s focus on something like their 3-pods, that pod of three forwards with a back tucked in behind.

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“There are still issues there. There’s an example very early in this game where they look to play a link pass out the back to Ben Healy but he’s not connected at all. He’s actually five metres behind the pod. Berch, you’ve spoken before about ‘heel-to-toe’ with Ireland, that release or boot player behind the three forwards being really connected to the pod.

“Later in the game, when Joey Carbery gets on, he gets disconnected in a different way. In my opinion, he bounces out too early a couple of times. So when they try to play that link pass behind, there’s one instance where he has to reach back inside to gather the ball, and another where the pass hits the tip-on option and the ball can’t get to Carbery because he’s gone a little early. They’re not smoothly connected there.

“Those subtleties are lacking in their game along with simple things like just spilling the ball. So there a few different issues in there. Some moments you can see them taking a step forward but then another few phases later, they might stutter.

“It’s going to take time. I don’t think anyone came into this season looking at that Munster squad and with the change of coaching staff, thinking that this is the season where they will win a trophy. I have probably recalibrated that even more.

“I do think that a season of additional pain is worth it if Munster can get to the point that Graham Rowntree and Mike Prendergast see. The question mark Berch raised last week is whether the players are of the quality or maybe the profile to get there, but it’s worth a rough season if they can get there.”

The full conversation, and the full podcast episode, is available now wherever you get your podcasts. To listen to it every week, as well as further members-exclusive podcasts with Eoin Toolan on Wednesdays and post-match pods immediately following every Ireland test, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie.

- First published today at 16.08 

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