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Healy looks Larkham-esque as Munster show 'more ambition and intent'

The province’s big win over Wasps was discussed on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Jack O'Donoghue was player of the match for Munster.
Jack O'Donoghue was player of the match for Munster.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

SIX TRIES, EIGHT linebreaks, 15 offloads, 22 defenders beaten, 140 passes completed, and a pleasing bonus-point win.

Munster fans were left happy at Thomond Park yesterday as Johann van Graan’s side showed some exciting intent in attack, as Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella discussed on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

As Eoin pointed out, much of the positive play was down to Munster’s work at the breakdown, where they recycled the ball in less than three seconds nearly 80% of the time.

Eoin: “It started at the breakdown, I thought they were accurate in that area, providing lightning-quick ball and facilitating a little bit more space in the middle and on the edge of the field.

“There was ambition there. It was clear for everyone to see the willingness of the ball-carrier to look for space and then try to promote the ball, whether it was off the ground or through contact. They’ve got the profile of players to do it – Coombes, Beirne, O’Donoghue, really athletic guys with good mobility.

“I thought Jeremy Loughman and Diarmuid Barron in the front row were really impressive and noticeable around the field. That dynamism that Munster have potentially lacked in seasons gone by at hooker in particular… even when Scott Buckley came on it was noticeable that there’s a little more mobility.

“You reflect on the Leinster and Ireland front row now and it’s such a point of difference for a pack when your front row have handling skills, carry ability, and even speed on the edges.

“So I thought Munster’s front row fronted up well in open play and I thought there was just really good ball control from Munster in that first 25 or 30 minutes, they denied Wasps any kind of possession. It didn’t feel like Wasps were in the game.

munsters-ben-healy Ben Healy on the ball for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Then I just thought Ben Healy looked really composed. I actually thought he looked Larkham-esque. He has that high cruising speed and just looks real languid and relaxed. He played with a little bit more freedom.

“Whether it was excellent analysis or just eyes-up from Healy for that second try… the Wasps blindside winger is defending in the line at first receiver which means there’s no one in the backfield, with the scrum-half Robson in the tracks at lineout time. That was excellent execution from Healy to give Zebo his opening try.

“For the first 30 minutes, Munster were really accurate and ambitious. The break in play for Thomas Youngs’ injury probably stymied some of their momentum.

“In the second half, they tried to continue with the ambitious mindset but probably lacked some accuracy with a couple of forced offloads, passes not going to hand, and it was really the last two tries in the closing minutes that put a slightly unfair reflection on the scoreline.

“But they took them really well during the Wasps sin bin period. Munster will be reasonably happy and it was great to see them playing with more ambition and intent.”

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Murray: “We are seeing an upward trajectory on that side of their game, even the identification of space. You think of them running out of their 22 in the first half where they set up one of their kick structures and then there’s a call that the space is on and they go out the back through Healy to target it.

“Those glimpses are encouraging to see and even in the Castres game – I know they got more criticism for not trying to play – but I felt they did try to go at space, they tipped-on passes. It wasn’t really fluid that day and that’s maybe where some of the negative feedback comes from.

“As that accuracy level rises, we’re starting to see a more balanced, more varied Munster team and that’s exactly what we’ve been hoping to see on this podcast.

“It’s about using the long-existing strengths like their defensive qualities, ability to be confrontational and pressure with their kicking, with a balanced attacking game and it looks like they’re moving in that direction. They’ve got a decent bit of momentum now.”

On today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, Eoin and Murray also dug into Leinster’s big win over Bath, Ulster’s nervy finale in the victory against Clermont, and Connacht’s late collapse for the second weekend in a row.

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