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Wasps 'not fooled' into thinking Munster will have a weak team on Sunday

Assistant coach John Mitchell is expecting a major challenge in Coventry.

Wasps assistant coach John Mitchell during his time with England.
Wasps assistant coach John Mitchell during his time with England.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WASPS ASSISTANT COACH John Mitchell insists the Premiership side won’t be lulled into thinking that Munster will arrive in Coventry with a weak side for Sunday’s Champions Cup clash.

The Irish province currently have 33 senior players isolating in either Limerick or Cape Town due to a Covid outbreak during their trip to South Africa, but will still be able to pick nine internationals for the European clash.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Damian de Allende, Chris Farrell, Keith Earls, and Andrew Conway are all in line to start on Sunday, having been absent from the visit to South Africa.

Munster also still hope to get a handful of players out of isolation in time to feature against Wasps, while several promising academy players are set to be involved on Sunday.

And Wasps, who have a lengthy injury list of key figures themselves, are expecting a huge challenge.

“Just remember that Munster pride their whole year on European rugby, they’ve got huge history in this tournament, they’ve got an academy that is strong and probably a bit older in age-group than UK academies,” said Mitchell this afternoon.

“We’re not fooled by it, that there won’t be a full side coming here. They’ll be full of internationals.

“We’re under no illusions. I’ve been around too long to fall into that trap.

“We’ve got our motivations as well, I’m looking forward to it.”

Munster’s travails have seen many people suggest that Wasps are firm favourites for Sunday but Mitchell isn’t of that view.

“It’s just noise really, isn’t it? At the end of the day, it’s a European Cup game and Munster are Munster. They pride themselves on this competition, so it will be a humdinger.

“I’m not sure how we can become favourites.”

wasps-v-northampton-saints-gallagher-premiership-coventry-building-society-arena Wasps out-half Jacob Umaga. Source: PA

Mitchell left his role as Eddie Jones’ England defence coach last summer to join Wasps, who lost Ian Costello back to Munster at the same time.

With Munster head coach Johann van Graan and his senior staff all in isolation, Costello has been leading the province’s preparation for the Wasps game over the past fortnight.

“Cossie, I’m sure he’s giving them a bit of knowledge there,” said Mitchell, who had a spell with Garryowen as a player back in the early 1990s.

“So, yeah, I’m looking to catch up with him as well. He’s got some very good friendships here, a couple of lads are excited to see him.”

While there will be an experienced core to the Munster team, it will also include some very fresh faces who Wasps know very little about.

With that in mind, Mitchell feels it’s important that Wasps focus on the longstanding themes of the Irish province’s game.

“There’s too much variable in terms of focusing on individuals, there’s probably more of a focus on their DNA in terms of the way they play and where their heart comes from, where they get a lot of their energy and go-forward from,” said Mitchell.


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“Clearly, they attack in a particular way. There are lots of examples from outside the European Cup where they play in the Pro14 and they don’t always play their strongest sides but when you look at those, there is always a consistency in their DNA and the identity of the way they like to play.

“We have probably focused on three areas that are important to us, that present us opportunity, but also look at the way we can take things away from them as well.”

wasps-v-harlequins-gallagher-premiership-coventry-building-society-arena Wasps' home stadium, the Coventry Building Society Arena. Source: PA

While Wasps have had two Premiership games over the past two weekends in preparation for this European clash, Munster are coming into it cold – their last game having been on 23 October against the Ospreys.

Mitchell hopes Wasps’ more recent game time can be a factor.

“It’s up to us to take them as deep as we can into the game and make sure we’re in the contest,” he said

“That should allow us to create that pressure that does question fitness in the last quarter.”

“A good start by us would be quite helpful. The last couple of weeks we’ve decided to wake up and chase the game, the start will be vitally important.

“If we can definitely take it deep into the game, there may or may not be opportunities. I’d like to think if we can take them deep, we can ask questions of them.”

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Murray Kinsella

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