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Exciting battle brewing between Munster's talented young 10s

Ben Healy is back at out-half as Jack Crowley drops to the bench for today’s Champions Cup clash against Wasps.

Munster out-half Ben Healy.
Munster out-half Ben Healy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT’S HARD TO fault a side that keeps finding ways to win, but fair to say most Munster supporters would like to see a little more from their team when the province host Wasps at Thomond Park in their final game of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stages today [KO 3.15pm, BT Sport 2].

While Munster boast a strong return in Europe this season – winning three from three – they haven’t exactly lit up the tournament, and that’s becoming a source of frustration because time and again, you come away from watching them feeling like they are capable of so much more.

Their opening round win at Wasps will go down as one of the great Munster away days given the squad had been gutted by Covid in the build-up, but the province looked sluggish and limited in their round two and three wins over Castres.

The home win against the French side was a grind, the team perhaps understandably struggling to repeat the thrilling nature of the Wasps performance the previous weekend, and Gavin Coombes’ late try at the Stade Pierre-Fabre last week saw Johann van Graan’s men take the points despite a performance where handling errors and sloppiness in the Castres’ 22 saw the visitors struggle to build any real momentum, the ambition to get their attacking game flowing falling foul of poor execution.

As a result, a contest they should have wrapped up much earlier ended being one they very almost lost.

Yet here they are, with a great opportunity to go four from four in the pool stages without ever really hitting their stride. Not a bad complaint, on the face of it.

The concern is that Munster won’t get away with another fractured display come the knockout rounds, and a more clinical, rounded performance against a strong Wasps lineup today would go some way to easing those fears.

The lifting of restrictions should at least help generate a big match atmosphere at Thomond Park, something which has been painfully absent over the past few months, with Friday’s government announcement allowing Munster to bump today’s capacity from 5,000 to 16,000 at late notice.

Those who do click through the turnstiles will like the look of the team Van Graan has selected, with a hardened core of senior stars such as Keith Earls, Andrew Conway, Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony complimented by a scattering of exciting young talent.

With Joey Carbery still sidelined, there’s an intriguing battle brewing at out-half, as Ben Healy comes back into the team and Jack Crowley drops to the bench.

Despite making a few mistakes in France last week, Crowley carried himself well and didn’t let those errors affect his approach. Healy, by far the more experienced of the two 22-year-old out-halfs – with 27 senior caps to his name, compared to Crowley’s 8 – will be keen to deliver a statement performance in response. Munster supporters will enjoy watching those two snap at each others heels going forward, as they look to close the gap on Carbery.

jack-crowley Jack Crowley had an encouraging game despite making a few errors against Castres. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It’s also a big opportunity for 23-year-old Diarmuid Barron, as the hooker wins his first Champions Cup start. Academy hooker Scott Buckley is in line to earn his second cap off the bench, while Simon Zebo is set for his first European appearance since returning from Racing 92 last summer, with the Cork man hungry for minutes after missing out on the Ireland squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations.

They’ll fancy their chances against a Wasps side who are enduring another mixed season, sitting eighth in the Gallagher Premiership table having lost seven of their 12 outings to date.

They disappointed at home to Munster earlier this season, having suffered their own Covid disruption, but come into this fixture having stunned Toulouse in round three – their round two meeting with the French side was cancelled due to Covid.

Repeat the standards they set against the French giants last weekend, and this could become a difficult afternoon for Munster. 


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No matter what form Munster are in though, Thomond Park remains one of the most testing away days on the Champions Cup circuit. The province have played Premiership opposition 26 times in this competition, losing just twice, while Wasps have won just once across their last eight Champions Cup away games (Dragons last season). 

Expect those trends to continue today, as Munster head towards the knockout stages with plenty of room for growth.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ben Healy, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Jack O’Donoghue, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Scott Buckley, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, John Hodnett, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Simon Zebo.

WASPS: Ali Crossdale; Marcus Watson, Paolo Odogwu, Ryan Mills, Josh Bassett; Charlie Atkinson, Dan Robson; Tom West, Tom Cruse, Elliott Millar-Mills; Elliott Stooke, James Gaskell; Brad Shields (captain), Thomas Young, Nizaam Carr.

ReplacementsGabriel Oghre, Rodrigo Martinez, Pieter Scholtz, Tim Cardall, Ben Morris, Will Porter, Rob Miller, Sam Spink.
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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