This week I welcome Tom Savage, of Munster fan site Three Red Kings (www.threeredkings.com @threeredkings), to the Opposition View ahead of Friday’s visit to Cork. Some excellent insight into Munster’s current status, happy reading!
1) How would you sum up your 2015/16 season overall?
Munster finished 6th, W 13 L 9 PF 459 PA 417 TF 56 TA 36 TBP 6 LBP 5 Pts 63
In a word? Disastrous. But the big slide had been coming for a while, to be honest. An all rookie coaching ticket had been slowly losing control of standards since 2014 an last season was the year where it all came home to roost.
Add in massive injury problems all over the pitch, losing Paul O’Connell to Toulon (prior to retiring) and Peter O’Mahony to a season ending knee injury, and you have a recipe for a worst ever year for Munster.
2) Are you pleased with your new signings?
Signings – Sam Arnold (Ulster), John Andress (Edinburgh), Darren O’Shea (Worcester), Jean Klyne, Jaco Taute (both Stormers)
Yes. There hasn’t been any big name signings but the signings that have been made have strengthened the squad. Andress is a decent depth option at tight head. O’Shea is a monster of a second row. Jean Kleyn is a second row with massive potential. Sam Arnold is one of the most exciting midfield players in Ireland.
Not many names that’ll be known worldwide.
In reality, our two biggest signings were Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber on the coaching side. I believe they are genuinely world class.
3) Where do your team’s strengths and weaknesses lie?
Hard to say at this early stage. Our defence looks much improved on last season (thanks to Nienaber) and there seems to be a focus on clarity around our work at the breakdown on attack and defence. You’d imagine that our lineout and maul will still be a traditional strength.
As for weaknesses, you’d have to look at the scrum. It was quite good against Scarlets but it’ll have much bigger challenges than that during the season.
4) How do you rate your coach?
Former South African international, and ex-Cheetahs coach, Rassie Erasmus joined in the summer.
Elite. Rassie Erasmus is a man who could, and probably should, have been the Springboks coach. He’s a massive signing for Irish rugby and he’s hugely rated by the players already.
5) Who do you see as your star player(s)?
We’ve a lot more than people seem to think. CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Connor Murray and Simon Zebo seem to be the obvious ones but the likes of Tommy O’Donnell, Keith Earls, Jack O’Donoghue, James Cronin, Rory Scannell and Darren Sweetman are all set for breakout years.
If I had to pick one, it would probably be Stander.
6) How did your season opener go?
Scarlets 13-23 Munster – Tries: Cronin, O’Mahony. Points: Bleyendaal (10), Keatley (3)
Excellently. While Scarlets were obviously rusty, our defence more than handled their possession. The lineout didn’t go well as it perhaps should have, so that will be something to look at.
7) What is your aim for this season?
Simple. Top four in the Pro12. Win all our home games in Europe and see what happens. Finish top of the Irish inter pro series.
8) What is your prediction for our game?
Tight. The forecast rain will play a part but I’d predict a narrow Munster win. I rate Cardiff quite a bit actually. Once you lot got over your horrible start to the Pro12 last year (something like 7 away games in a row? (6, and 6 losses! Ed.)) you really put a good run together and gave us a fine walloping in the Arms Park.
Munster by a score, hopefully.
Munster v Cardiff
Friday 9th September
Musgrave Park, Cork
Live on BBC2 Wales
Thanks again to Tom, check out his website here – www.threeredkings.com
Have a look at the Cardiff Rugby Trust’s new website, sign up and fill in the survey –www.cf10rugbytrust.org
Come on Cardiff!!