David Corkery on rugby: Munster shone under Páirc Uí Chaoimh lights but Connacht won't back down

After the high of beating South Africa, the Reds now need a derby victory at Thomond Park
David Corkery on rugby: Munster shone under Páirc Uí Chaoimh lights but Connacht won't back down

Munster's Edwin Edogbo signs an autograph after the win over South Africa in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

A DERBY against Connacht doesn’t quite have the same ring around it as Munster’s last game does it?

Two weeks ago when the World Cup holders South Africa came to Cork, there was a carnival atmosphere on Leeside. It was the first rugby match ever to be played on the hallowed surface of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the tickets sold out as fast as a Cork hurling Munster final.

It was the largest attendance Munster ever had in their own province and the performance from the players was inspiring. However, I wonder if you asked Graham Rowntree to swap that night’s historical victory for four points tomorrow what he would say...

Munster find themselves in a very scary place in the United Rugby Championship table. They have played seven games and only won two of them. In 14th position, they are only two places off the basement with only the top eight qualifying for the European Champions Cup next season.

A season of Munster playing in the B competition of European Cup rugby would be like King Charles arriving for his ordination in a 161 D registered Ford Transit.

Munster are viewed as European rugby royalty but unless they find a way to clamber their way up that URC table they’ll be in big trouble.

Beating South Africa is a great achievement but now it’s time to get down and dirty, and back to the coal face of what made Munster great.

Connacht, like Munster, have not had a great start to the season but are two places above Rowntree’s troops in the league table.

The last time these two sides met back in early October, it was the Westerners who came out on top.

BALANCE

For as long as I’ve watched Connacht play rugby, they’ve never used a loose or flamboyant set of blueprints. Perhaps this has something to do with the inclement weather that regularly batters their side of the country.

When they get their balance right between kicking the leather off the ball and playing to a very unpretentious style they become this unstoppable wave.

In their October victory when these two sides met, Connacht just rolled up the sleeves and fought like a wounded animal does when it is cornered. They did what they had to do and I am now calling on Munster to do the same.

In times of desperation, it is imperative that you take one day at a time and whilst Munster certainly need a short, medium and long-term plan, right now all focus must be placed on them ascending the URC table.

Riddled with injuries over the last few months, Rowntree has had to call on many of his younger squad members to step up to the plate and they have done so with much success.

Gavin Coombes at Munster training this week. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Gavin Coombes at Munster training this week. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Edwin Edogbo has been inspirational in the second row and scrum-half Paddy Patterson who was awarded Man of the Match against the Springboks has shown that the Munster number nine conveyor belt is still working well.

The dilemma now for Rowntree is that he has many players returning from injury and international duties so should he start the likes of Keith Earls, Antoine Frisch, Jean Kleyn, Liam Coombes, Peter O’Mahony, Jack Crowley, Joey Carbery and Tadgh Beirne? Or remain loyal to the players who deputised so well against the World Cup holders?

His biggest decision will be who he is going to start in the number 10 jersey.

Going on current form, I would think that Jack Crowley has leapfrogged Joey Carbery in assuming the apprenticeship role to Johnny Sexton so, you should start.

We must not forget Ben Healy though. He probably had his best game for Munster against South Africa.

Starting Carbery at full-back is an option but that would mean dropping Munster’s best player Mike Haley over the last two years to the bench so, that cannot happen. I think Irish coach Andy Farrell might have a small input on this one so, it will be a saga worth watching.

Both sides need to win this game badly but, I would like to think that Munster’s need is far greater and with home advantage they should emerge victorious.

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