Written by Conal Lane
Feels like a while since I’ve done one of these, well that’s because it is. The November internationals came upon us and showed that the mighty All Blacks are beatable, Ireland are no longer the plucky underdog, Wales are probably the weakest of the home nations & South Africa stink, badly. But away with all that until the Six Nations next year, Munster squeezed in an outstanding victory against the Maori All Blacks between serving up 30+ point hammerings to the Ospreys and Treviso. Momentum which is gladly appreciated coming into a rotten run of fixtures.
Away to Glasgow, back to back games against Leicester, then the usual Xmas interpro’s which takes in Leinster at home then a trip to Galway on New Year’s eve, bloody hell. Munster have not lost since Axel’s passing, five games, five wins and five performances the great man will have looked upon with pride. Munster need to maintain this run of form as Leinster entertain the dreadful Dragons on Saturday evening & the boys in blue sit just one point off the summit of the PRO12 table. Glasgow’s last two games have ended in defeat to Welsh sides, with the Warriors only notching up a single score on each occasion. Gregor Townsend’s side are out of the top four and with Ulster and Cardiff Blues both pressing hard, the future Scotland coach knows that a win is essential.
Munster: Peter O’Mahony, Rory Scannell
POM is BACK, HE’S BAAAAAACK! Granted he has played some minutes over the last few weeks, but in the Aviva on Saturday last we saw the real O’Mahony. Bustling & hustling, fists clenched and roaring in delight when the final whistle blew and one or two archetypal carries. Looking a few kilos larger than his measured 106kg (I’d personally guess north of 110) POM was in fine fettle for the last 20-25 minutes. Captains the side this Friday, and will lead by example. No better man.
The green suited Rory Scannell as he warmed up around 5pm last Saturday, alas he was to stay as the 24th man. An Ireland debut must wait until 2017 for now, no matter to Scans however as he will likely take out the frustration of not being selected on a hapless Glasgow defence. Soft hands, a blinding turn of pace & strength that belies his size and frame (Johnny Holland reckons he is the strongest player in the squad pound for pound).
Glasgow: Josh Strauss, Mark Bennett
Once owner of the most impressive beard in world rugby, Josh Strauss has gone for a leaner and meaner look so far this season. Bearded or shaven, the South Africa born Scotland international is a ball carrying monster. Shifted to the blindside to (weirdly) make room for Ryan Wilson at 8, Strauss won’t be too put out and will probably relish the battle of the sixes with O’Mahony. Good luck there Josh
Many might have had Mark Bennett as an outside British & Irish Lions bet last year, but he fell behind Huw Jones this autumn and must get back to his best if he wants to feature for the tourists. At his best however, he is liable to the same praise I heaped upon Rory Scannell above. Tremendous turn of pace and surprising strength, He’ll run at the 10/12 channel all day long so messrs Keatley & Scannell will need to be fully on their guard.
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie, Rory Hughes, Nick Grigg, Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour, Peter Horne, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Sila Puafisi, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley, Josh Strauss, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson (capt).
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Alex Allan, D’arcy Rae, Rob McAlpine, Langilangi Haupeakui, Nemia Kenatale, Rory Clegg, Lee Jones.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Thomas du Toit, Stephen Archer, Donnacha Ryan, Robin Copeland, Te Aihe Toma, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton.
Munster have been playing with a new found ferocity since the tragic passing of Axel. Glasgow were their first opponents less than one week later, and we all saw how that went. If Gregor Townsend’s Warriors playing anything like their last two fixtures this could end up being a cricket score in Munster’s favour. That said Glasgow will raise their game, just not enough.
Munster by 10