With competition for top spot in Pool 1 heating up between Munster and Glasgow, the five points gathered by Rassie Erasmus’s side will certainly be invaluable come the completion of the pool rounds. Despite resting a number of first choice players for the clash, Racing still fielded a side full of players with international experience. Even with all of their experience the French champions were no match for the men from Limerick who were hell bent on honouring their late coach Anthony Foley with a performance to remember.
Ronan O’Gara will be a future Munster coach:
Despite being 100% in the Racing camp, the former Munster number 10 certainly had mixed feelings as the two sides took to the pitch. Whilst the next eighty minutes will have left O’Gara and the whole Racing coaching staff frustrated, the job he has done since arriving in Paris has been nothing short of exceptional. With Racing having claimed a French title and being runners up in Europe last year, the defensive work of the Parisians was exceptional. Despite their poor run of form this season, O’Gara’s coaching career will only continue to gather momentum and a return to Ireland in the next few seasons should not come as a surprise to anyone. What may be most beneficial to Irish rugby however is getting O’Gara involved with national side in the next few seasons before Joe Schmidt’s inevitable departure.
CJ Stander is the best number eight in Ireland:
Another massive performance from the South African born Irish international has once again showed that when Jamie Heaslip hangs up his international boots the green number eight shirt will be in good hands. With a powerfully taken try that very few players would have finished, Stander has well and truly kicked on from the November internationals. In defence Stander was monstrous as he time and again held up Racing ball carriers as well as smashing rucks and winning turnovers. Not since the late Anthony Foley has Munster possessed a number eight so capable of getting them over the gain line. In addition to the hard yards done by Stander, the level of skill from the former U-20 Springbok is a sight to behold as his offloading ability opens up space for Munster’s dangerous backline players.
Whilst Heaslip is certainly the incumbent and is playing great rugby, Stander on current form would be Ireland’s best option at eight. Luckily for Heaslip the Munster man is equally adept in the number six jersey, which only highlights his value to Irish rugby as Joe Schmidt plans his assault on the 2019 World Cup.
Growing Munster squad depth:
With players such as Keith Earls, Francis Saili and Dave Kilcoyne sitting on the bench, Rassie Erasmus has put together a squad with enough depth to challenge the big sides in Europe. Whilst imports such as Saili and South Africans Jean Kleyn, Jaco Taute and Thomas Du Toit have brought a lot to the Munster squad. It is the emergence of home grown talent such as the Scannell brothers and Tommy O’Donnell that will most please Munster supporters. For years Munster, have had to watch as Leinster produced world class talent via their academy system; with these new young home grown players the Munster academy finally appears to be producing players capable of going toe to toe with the best Europe has to offer.
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