Written by Conal Lane
Well last weekend wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t the thunder-bastard of a display that should have been expected after the home defeat to Cardiff, but a win is a win in any man’s language. This week sees the men in red take to the field of Thomond Park, which has regained a little of its former “Fortress Thomond” status as Munster have remained undefeated there so far this calendar year. Edinburgh’s most recent trip to the southern province ended in a 27-19 defeat last May, but they will have more fond memories of their most recent visit to Limerick, a single point victory in the opening round of the 2014-15 PRO12 Season. The Irish provinces as a whole have had the upper hand against Edinburgh in recent times, with the Scots failing to record a victory since a triumph over Connacht fadó fadó in January 2015.
Ok so labeling it a fortress (again) might be jumping the gun a little bit, considering 2016 is far from finished and the likes of Leinster & Ospreys have yet to be welcomed before December 31st, but I can’t help but feel if Munster can keep this undefeated home streak alive and well, it will surely stand to them come the business end of the season. Maybe, just maybe it will attract the supporters back through gates also. Barring Leinster on St. Stephens day, I cannot recall a single instance last season where Thomond Park was filled to anywhere near its 26,000 capacity. Thomond is/was famed worldwide for its intimidating and raucous atmosphere and then the polar opposite goal kickers silence. In recent years though, that appears to have reversed into silence during play and then little pockets of noise during goal kicks. Some will say that Limerick city itself is too small to host such a vast arena…bullshit. There never was a problem with attendances when Munster were winning all around them. Time will tell over the course of this campaign, but keep the undefeated streak going chaps and I truly believe Thomond can become the world’s largest & loudest outdoor lunatic asylum once again.
Munster: Cian Bohane, Jean Kleyn
Cruelly robbed of an entire season in 2014-15, Cian Bohane is only now making his first competitive start for Munster. Long touted as a future star, the Dolphin RFC clubman is a big bruising beast of a back, equally comfortable in the centers or out wide. ‘Bowser’ will want to start as he means to go on and lay down a marker for the rest of the season. Young colleagues such as Darren Sweetnam and Dan Goggin have already been given their chance and have grasped it with both hands, Bohane must do the same and show he is worth the punt.
A relative unknown at the time of his signing, Jean Kleyn has had a solid start to his Munster career. Part of the growing South African contingent in our fair province, 6ft 8in Kleyn will be menacing in the lineout and 120kg+ of Highveld beef won’t be found wanting in the tackle or contact either. Some work is required around the fringes, I have witnessed the big man pinged for going straight off his feet a number of times, but that can be ironed out as the season progresses.
Edinburgh: Duncan Weir, Hamish Watson
The pocket sized Duncan Weir made the short trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh ahead of the 2015-16 PRO12 Season About as wide as he is tall, and roughly the same shape as a coffee table, the dynamic Weir’s ability to lead the Edinburgh attack is already evident, even if results haven’t gone their way so far this term. An outstanding place kicker who notched up over 750 points for his previous employers, Weir will look to be the catalyst in starting to turn around Edinburgh’s fortunes this term.
Part of an outstandingly named Edinburgh back row this weekend (The other two being Magnus Bradbury & Cornell du Preez), Hamish Watson is an almost carbon copy of his Edinburgh & Scotland team-mate John Hardie. Watson is a dynamic back-row player, who excels defensively & clings to the ball like a limpet given the chance. Extremely difficult to shunt off the ball once he is in a jackal position, Watson will not be found wanting in the tackle either.
I pretty much cursed Munster last time out with the prediction of a 20+ point victory, they had to resort to smash and grab tactics in order to escape Newport with a victory. As mentioned above, Edinburgh have a grim record in Ireland & Munster have yet to be beaten at TP in 2016. I can’t see anything past a Munster victory, but it will be close.
Verdict: Munster by 7