Irrespective of how unwell someone can be, or how pessimistic someone’s long term diagnosis can read, when the day arrives that they must bid farewell to this all too often cruel rock we live on, there comes a very harsh shock to the system for those who are left behind.
Both sides who will take to the field tonight in the Dam Health Stadium have had to deal with the passing of two legends in their own right.
Scottish rugby and the greater rugby world has had to deal with the passing of the inspirational Doddie Weir who lost his hard fought battel with Motor Neurons Disease whilst, closer to home, the family of Munster paid tribute to Jerry Holland who served the Province as a player, a coach, manager and much lauded adviser from 1997 to 2008.
Even though both of these true gents were unwell for some time and fought their respective illnesses with much resolve, when the news filtered through of their passing, it was incredibly hard to comprehend and I’m sure that both sides tonight will want to honour both these rugby greats by claiming a victory on the score board.
Last weekend as Munster thankfully swept aside the challenge thrown down by Connacht, Edinburgh were being dished out a lesson in resolve as Benetton circled the wagons and defended their home turf like never before.
Despite Benetton having winger Matteo Minozzi sent off ten minutes into his debut, Mike Blair’s side couldn’t overcome the very determined hosts who dominated the breakdown, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory and were worthy 24-17 winners.
Perhaps the Scott’s were slightly blinded going into this game because in round five they completely annihilated Benetton by a score line of fifty three points to eight, but whatever excuse they throw behind this very unexpected loss, you can be sure they will do whatever is needed to return to winning ways tonight.
Munster on the other hand will arrive in Edinburgh buoyed by their much deserved derby win against Connacht, and it is imperative that they leave no stone unturned in their quest to maintain their winning ways.
For long periods during last weeks win, Munster found themselves very much on the back foot and having to defend against a strong Connacht side who came to Limerick and tried to bully their opponents. Thankfully the men in the red jersey stood front and centre and were able to repel the bull dozing runs from Bundee Aki and a very powerful Connacht scrum.
The over all performance by Munster was a very welcome sight however, they must drive on now and look to obtain their first win away from home.
Without wanting to point out the very obvious, unless you manage to formulate a recipe that allows you to win on the road, the best you will ever be is an average team and considering the precarious position where Munster find themselves on the URC league table, average is not going to save their bacon.
Let there be little doubt about it that this Munster squad has an abundance of untapped talent but, unless Graham Rowntree selects and cares for his players like a Michelin star chef does his ingredients, many of them will become uneasy with watching from the side line and the last thing you need as a coach who is having a challenging season, is a divided squad.
With full back Mike Haley unavailable due to concussion, it seems like a perfect opportunity to move Joey Carberry into the number fifteen jersey and start Jack Crowley at ten however, consideration must also be shown to Ben Healy who must be feeling rather left out at this point.
At this time of the season and with the European Cup commencing next week, the majority of coaches would have one eye firmly on their drawn opponents, but not Rowntree who stated during the week that, they will not even talk about Europe until after tonight’s game.
In one way I can see the logic behind his methodology because he is wanting to see who comes through this game before he even starts to think about what players he has to select from but, on the other hand if I knew that French Galactico’s, Toulouse were arriving at my front door, I don’t think I’d be leaving it to the last minute to plot their down fall.
What Munster need heading into next week’s daunting challenge is a victory of any kind in tonight’s game. Should they finish second in this tie, it will have a massive psychological effect on the squad and to make matters worse it would send them back down the league table.
Due to Munster’s really poor start to the season Rowntree has left himself very little wiggle room to play with and unless his much talked about game plan finds its feet very soon, every game between now and the end of the season is going to be like playing in a cup final.
Edinburgh will be better than they were last week however, going on current form, there is no way I can guarantee the same for Munster.