Munster continue to show resilience in a season full of challenges

Murray Kinsella reports from Paris

MUNSTER BROKE FROM their routine just a little in the build-up to yesterday’s convincing 32-7 win over Racing 92 in Paris.

Normally, they carry out their captain’s run the day before matches, but this week they skipped that session and instead visited Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday morning for a walk-through.

Peter O’Mahony embraces So’otala Fa’aso’o at the final whistle yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

One reason was the heavy rain in Cork on Friday. With a number of players already suffering from flu and others feeling slightly under the weather, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus decided to move the final rehearsal forward to yesterday morning.

Furthermore, Erasmus is keen for his players to manage their energy and workload even more than is usually the case. Yesterday’s win was the first of three Champions Cup fixtures in a row for Munster – a heavy run of important fixtures.

The third reason was the emotion around the province’s return to Paris.

Munster are getting used to changing their schedule regularly and dealing with the various challenges this season is throwing at them. The death of Anthony Foley has put everything in perspective and they don’t complain about any of it; sleeves up and tackle the test.

“We have done a lot the last eight weeks,” said Erasmus. “We had a five-day turnaround the last three weeks and we have three European games one after the other now, which has not been done before.

“So we have had to juggle the last few weeks. Sometimes we have captain’s practise, others just walk-throughs.”

Both teams huddled up for the minute’s applause in memory of Foley. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s now 12 weeks since Foley’s passing and while there will not be closure for a long time – perhaps never full closure for some – Munster must have taken some degree of comfort from paying tribute to their fallen brother in style again yesterday.

While each of the players and staff would have felt different emotions on this return to Paris, the province managed the process well. They stayed in a different hotel on this trip, of course, but Erasmus says no one needed to say anything particularly different to any week.

Mentions of Axel are commonplace in Munster meetings these days anyway.

Instead, the focus was on delivering another of those performances that Axel would have loved so much. Four tries, a dominant set-piece and another robust defensive showing left Erasmus happy.

“The attack was great, the mauling was well done. They beat us a little in the air. The defence was outstanding; the whole team linked well and not just in the system but also individuals made some big hits and some big turnovers.

“They had dangerous players if you look at that 1 to 23. I’m not saying it was a perfect performance, but I liked the intensity on defence and the clinical side of the first fifty minutes as well.”

CJ Stander shares a joke with Ali Williams. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That ‘intensity’ is something that impressed the defeated Racing at Stade Yves du Manoir yesterday, with several of their players remarking in the aftermath that Munster’s work rate had stood out.

While Erasmus understands that his players need more than a burning desire to get off the ground and help their team-mates, he is pleased that Munster are perceived in such a manner.

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Munster’s reward for this 32-7 win is top place in Pool 1 ahead of next weekend’s visit to Glasgow, who trail them by three match points.

A thriller awaits at Scotstoun, but Munster must be feeling confident ahead of the trip.

“It will be a tough week,” said Erasmus. “What happens then is one team plays Leicester away and the other Racing at home. It will just get tougher and we will try and prepare for Glasgow just as they will for us.”

Another challenge Munster will face with determination.

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