Opposition View: Munster

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This week’s Opposition View comes from Munster supporter Tom who runs the Three Red Kings website, well worth signing up to on Patreon even if you’re not a Munster or Ireland supporter.

The last few seasons have seen Munster earn the title ‘the nearly men’ in some quarters after two consecutive seasons of reaching at least the semi-finals of League and European competition but coming away without a trophy. Is it the case that you’re pleased to see Munster getting there consistently, or do you think they should have gone on to win at least one trophy in that time?

The elite level in Europe is ruthless place. Three seasons ago, I saw what that looked like without Munster in the conversation and I didn’t like it. For me, getting to the semi-final stage shows you’re there or there abouts at European level – even in the PRO14 – but once you solidify your spot there you have to push on and make a final/win it.

The margins are tight in one sense but yawningly large in another. Whether Munster can cross that divide from semi-final defeat to a final or a win remains to be seen but I think we’ve the squad to make a real dent this year.

Darren Sweetnam Munster
Darren Sweetnam tries to break the tackle of Lloyd Williams

Johan Van Graan came in around November/December of last season and has now had a full summer with the squad, from what you’ve seen so far is he the man to take Munster to the next level?

As much as that question can be answered in September of his first full season, I’d say yes. The five games I’ve seen so far this season have shown a real difference from last season but it remains to be seen how that goes as we head into October and the Heineken Cup.

It’s been a mixed start for Munster with comfortable home wins against Cheetahs and Ospreys either side of defeat in Glasgow. How do you rate your side in the first few weeks of the season?

Mixed, as you said. The result in Glasgow was disappointing because, as happened a bit last season, the game was mostly lost inside the first 30 minutes with ill discipline, set piece malfunctions and individual errors. If you want to beat Glasgow in Scotstoun, you can’t afford to play like that. Munster won’t be the last side to get beaten there this season but the manner of performance is something to refer back on as the season emerges from these early rounds. Beating the Cheetahs and a weakened Ospreys side is fine, but the season won’t be judged on relative gimmes like those.

Joey Carbery has come in, after a bit of controversy, and settled quite quickly into the Munster squad it seems. How important will he be in that 10 jersey this season after a bit of inconsistency in the fly-half position at Thomond Park almost since Ronan O’Gara hung up his boots?

Munster need to finish off that identity at half back. Conor Murray starting is obvious but he’s had so many different partners at Munster since his breakthrough to elite level that it’s hard to name them. There’s been Keatley, Bleyendaal, Holland and Hanrahan but nobody long term, as of yet. You think of Ireland and, immediately, Murray and Sexton come to mind.

Is Carbery capable of being that guy at Munster? Possibly. It’s been encouraging so far but we’ll need to see how he translates up to the bigger games and how he fares when Murray returns.

Joey Carbery
Joey Carbery and Conor Murray are now team-mates in Munster red

There’s plenty of quality in that Munster squad, but who stands out as the key man to you?

Peter O’Mahony will always be the key man for Munster as long as he is in his prime. Others like Stander, Kleyn, the Scannells and Carbery are important too but O’Mahony makes everything about Munster work properly, for the most part.

Would you say there’s a weakness in the Munster squad which I definitely won’t pass on to anyone at the Cardiff Blues…

Depth at #9.

And finally, what’s your score prediction for Friday?

A narrow Cardiff win.

Thanks to Tom for his insight into Friday night’s opponents, let’s hope he’s right with his prediction!

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