27th September 2017 By The Editor
Across their last four encounters the spoils are evenly split at two wins apiece as Munster and Cardiff Blues prepare to do battle at Thomond Park this Saturday lunchtime in round five of the Guinness PRO14 – ko 1.30pm.
Both sides enter this weekend off the back of contrasting fortunes. The Munstermen had little cause for complaint when they left Glasgow empty handed after a comprehensive 37-10 defeat to Dave Rennie’s side, while Cardiff recorded their first win of the current campaign in impressive style away to 2016 champions Connacht – the jinking feet of Willis Halaholo and a last-minute Jarrod Evans conversion snatching an excellent 15-17 win. The result also helped the Welsh side allay the demons of an agonising one-point defeat to Glasgow the week previous.
Halaholo is undoubtedly a player to be wary of should he feature in the Cardiff midfield again this weekend. Weighing in at 105kg and fleet-footed in attack, the former Hurricanes centre beat no less than eight defenders in Connacht on his way to securing a brace.
Munster themselves have impressed in attack at different stages this season, using offloads to good effect in putting a dangerous back-three of Alex Wootton, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway into space – with four rounds played Wootton remains the leading try scorer of the league to-date, touching down on five occasions. However, like Glasgow last weekend, the Blues are a side capable of neutralising the Munster attack. Josh Navidi spearheaded the Cardiff tackle count in Galway with a grand total of 28 tackles made, while as a whole, they boast the best tackling success in the Championship at 92%.
Conceding four kickable penalties to the in-form Finn Russell last weekend was far from ideal, and Rassie Erasmus’ charges will not want to make the same mistake in Thomond Park on Saturday, especially with the boot Steve Shingler ready to punish any Munster ill-discipline. Consistently one of the PRO14’s most accurate kickers, the former Scarlets man has kicked eight of his nine penalties and is yet to miss a conversion in the current campaign.
Last season’s early loss to Cardiff in Cork served as somewhat of a wake-up call to the men in red and since then have lost only one home game in any tournament – going down 21-30 to Scarlets in February.
Interestingly, the Blues have beaten Munster four times on their own soil but all those victories have been in Cork. Their record at Thomond Park in all competitions is played seven, lost seven.
Erasmus will named his side at midday on Friday but has already hinted this week that a number of Ireland and Lions representatives will see their first starts or squad inclusions of the new season.
“There are positives heading into the weekend and apart from the Lions players, there are the likes of Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne and Simon Zebo who are yet to start games so we can utilise them a bit more this weekend. JJ Hanrahan is also back in the mix having played a club game at the weekend. That provides us with some good options but make no mistake, this weekend will be a massive challenge.”
Tommy O’Donnell also met with media this week and is excited by the prospect of a returning Lions contingent.
“It will be good to welcome those lads back when they do hit the field. When they hit the field they bring confidence and experience and hopefully now they’ll bring what they’ve learned from the Lions tour and bring a bit of freshness with them as well, that they’ll up the vibe again and give us the presence that we’re used to on the field.
“I think the way he Pete is talking in meetings, it’s like he’s reassessed his view. He’s bringing a whole view of the game and how we’re playing so it’s definitely worked well for him.
“And the way he’s approaching the game now, viewing the game and how he’s adding his advice at meetings, it’s perfectly timed and it comes across really well. So I think it has worked for him in that regard, from the Lions.”
Munster v Cardiff Tickets
- Adults from €20
- Families from €40
- Juniors from €7
Munster v Cardiff Hospitality
Enjoy the game in the comfort and privacy of your own Executive Box, complete with dinner, drinks and tickets located directly outside the door. Box prices from €1,250 (seats 15).
Alternatively, soak up the atmosphere of the Thomond Suite complete with dinner, live band pre & post-match, tickets directly outside the suite and much more. Prices from €75pp.
🎟️ 🥂 🇪🇺 Next up @thomondstadium it’s Cardiff, then European is back with Racing 92
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) September 19, 2017