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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Rassie Erasmus confident he knows his best squad for season opener after two friendly wins

Munster put in an impressive display to beat Worcester in Cork last night.

Ronan O'Mahony with his man-of-the-match award.
Ronan O'Mahony with his man-of-the-match award.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

MUNSTER DIRECTOR OF Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, says he has decided on his match-day 23 for next Saturday’s Pro12 campaign opener away to Scarlets.

In total Erasmus gave 39 players game-time over their two warm-up games, while their 52-21 victory over Worcester Warriors at Musgrave Park last night saw internationals Simon Zebo, James Cronin and Tommy O’Donnell make their first appearances of the season.

In a further boost Tyler Bleyendaal will be happy with his first game since a quad injury last December – he landed five from five from the tee and kicked well from the hand – while new signing Jean Kleyn also put in a dominant first outing for his new side.

And Erasmus suggested that his options could be further swelled for next week’s trip to Parc Y Scarlets, with ‘one or two’ more of his Irish internationals primed for their first action of the new campaign.

“I think I know now, we are fairly confident who’s our match-day 23. Obviously one or two international guys will be available next week who were not allowed to play warm-up games,” said Erasmus.

“We have seen everyone now, but not everyone is fully match fit, like the international guys who are available next week.

“The challenge is now to pick a side that can go the 80 (minutes) while thinking about the international guys coming into the mix.

Donncha O'Callaghan at the end of the match Donncha O'Callaghan received a warm reception on his return. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I think we are feeling confident. We tried out combinations and the motivations will be different for the opposition and for yourself. It could have been more scrappy and it wasn’t today, so I would be pretty confident. But no two ways about it, we know how tough next week will be.”

On the night Donncha O’Callaghan returned to face his old side for the first time since his move to the English Premiership last season, Munster dominated their visitors, and only allowed Warriors in for their three tries during the replacement-riddled final 20 minutes.

Tries from Cronin, Zebo and Darren Sweetnam – his third of pre-season – added to a penalty try meant Munster led by 31-0 at the break. Ronan O’Mahony, Cian Bohane and replacement Ian Keatley also ran in scores during the second period.

There was significant impacts from Conor Oliver, Duncan Casey and Keatley from the bench, and Erasmus was pleased to his extended squad impress over their two games.

He said: “I think we are starting to understand what we are trying to do in the different areas of the field with the different facets of the game.

“I did not like to let in those two tries at the end of the game, but I guess when you make so many changes you lose some rhythm, but overall it’s pretty pleasing.

“This week the conditions were good so that’s why we got to attack. The ball was nice and quick and the guys, when opportunities were given to them in attack they took them without being too risky. We have got a way to go, but I think the attack was pleasing.

“On the one side it is wonderful to have seen all the guys play and to see talent out there, now we need to have a match 23 that can go for 80 (minutes).”

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Declan Rooney

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