Antoine Frisch, Chris Farrell, and Malakai Fekitoa.
# Analysis
Munster's biggest frustrations and what's their best centre pairing?
Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella did a deep dive on Munster’s defeat to Cardiff on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

THE FIRST GAME of the new Graham Rowntree era left Munster supporters with plenty of food for thought.

There was some good stuff, some bad stuff, and some downright ugly stuff as the men in red lost away to Cardiff in their URC opener last weekend.

Former Ireland, Melbourne Rebels, and Kintetsu Liners performance analyst and coach Eoin Toolan joined Murray Kinsella on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra - a podcast available to members of The42 every Monday and Wednesday - to take a deep dive into the Munster performance.

Toolan picked out a few encouraging signs in Munster’s display but highlighted some of the key areas where Rowntree’s men need to get better quickly. One aspect that caught his eye was their work in the tackle as Munster conceded three tries, which will have frustrated new defence coach Denis Leamy.

“I thought there was definite intent from a defensive perspective,” said Toolan.

“You could see the influence the Leinster environment has had on Leamy, that defensive work-rate in twos to either double up in contact or have one tackler, one jackaler and apply pressure there. 

“So you can see early signs in terms of defensive intent but I think what they’ll want to take out of their game is the volume of missed tackles. There were 13 missed tackles after 27 minutes and a lot of that was tacklers in good positions looking to put shots on but bouncing off contacts and not hit-sticking.

“The first Cardiff try is reflective of that where the Cardiff centre goes at a little gap, there’s footwork, and it’s Fineen Wycherley that makes the tackle but doesn’t quite hit-stick, doesn’t complete the tackle on the ground. The ball carrier gets up and goes again, that’s Cardiff’s first try.

“I think something Leamy will focus on in training this week is having a really solid contact but sticking post-contact and not allowing those ball-carriers to bounce free.

denis-leamy Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s a vaguery of the law as well because I’ve definitely seen ball-carriers being penalised when tackled to ground and not releasing. There was no clear release from the Cardiff player so it’s fractional, but I think the intent of the Munster tacklers and why a lot of those stats come as missed tackles is because they haven’t completed the tackle to its full extent.”

Similarly, there were disappointing elements of Munster’s performance for new attack coach Mike Prendergast, most notably their inability to strike successfully from lineouts and scrums. 

“Munster’s first-phase execution will have been a huge source of frustration for Prendergast,” said Toolan.

“There were so many inaccuracies off Munster launches, whether it was basic catch-pass skills, running lines, or those wide area breakdowns. I counted nine turnovers off first or second-phase structured attack.

“That just denied Munster any ability to get into their structured attacking patterns because they were generally coughing up the ball. Malakai Fekitoa had a debut he’ll want to forget, he really did cough up some uncharacteristic errors. The understanding between him and Chris Farrell is going to take time. Those 9-12-10 out-the-back plays just looked really sticky and stodgy, not a great deal of fluidity to them.

“I thought Paddy Patterson struggled on the inside, it starts with the nine in terms of that accuracy of passing. That was an area of the game he needs to work on.

“Those turnovers really did cost Munster. You reflect on Munster turning over the ball with a wraparound play from a scrum and they don’t get their targeting right at the breakdown and Cardiff do a good job to force a turnover.

“Off that scrum, Cardiff score the game-defining try and that comes directly off Munster structured attack and the lack of accuracy that was a theme of the game.”

mike-prendergast Ben Brady / INPHO Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Mention of Munster’s centre pairing of Malakai Fekitoa and Chris Farrell was interesting given that new signing Antoine Frisch made an impact off the bench and linked well with Fekitoa on a couple of occasions.

Frisch will now head away with Emerging Ireland on their tour of South Africa, but will return to challenge the more high-profile pair for a starting place in Munster. Rory Scannell and Dan Goggin provide further midfield options.

“It’s tough to be too harsh on Farrell because a lot of the source of the problems was Fekitoa,” said Toolan of the centres.

“Even when they run that 9-12-10 out the back play, Farrell’s catch-pass is good but if you watch Fekitoa’s running line, he’s actually running away from Farrell whereas the space is the skinny line behind the 13.

“It was a combination that didn’t click straight away and there is excitement around Antonine Frisch. It will be interesting to see those combinations once more of the first-choice Munster players come back into the fold.

“But yeah, between Fekitoa and Frisch it was exciting, they have that footwork at the line and the ability to make things happen out of nothing. It will be interesting to see how Prendergast foresees his favoured centre partnership.”

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

This article was originally published at 3pm

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