Munster errors prevent opening clean sweep for Irish sides in Europe
Rassie Erasmus says timing of departure dependant on work permit issues
Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne scores a try during the Champions Cup match against Castres at Stade Pierre Fabre. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
A mistake-riddled 17-all draw in Castres prevented Munster from emulating their fellow Irish provinces and thus providing a clean sweep of four wins on the opening weekend of the European competitions. In the end though, they were relieved to earn an away draw and the two points which came with it.
Munster now host Racing 92 and their own all-time record points’ scorer Ronan O’Gara next Saturday at Thomond Park, a year and a week since the tragic loss of Anthony Foley on the morning of the teams’ scheduled opener in Paris, with the Parisians atop Pool 4 after their 22-18 win over Leicester at home.
Munster compounded 15 turnovers, 22 missed tackles and conceding 11 penalties (one of which led to a yellow card for Conor Murray) with poor decision making, and were grateful to see Argentinian Benjamin Udapilleta miss a late penalty and drop goal attempt.
After the game, Rassie Erasmus said that the date of his departure hinged on when his successor, Johann van Graan, obtains a work permit. If Van Graan and Munster were then agreeable to a swift changeover, he would head back to South Africa and start his new job as the Springboks’ director of rugby before November 1st, as his agent has indicated.
“If the work permit doesn’t come through then definitely I will still be here in December but if it comes through and he arrives in the next two or three weeks then it depends how long Johann, Munster and the players need me to stay.”
Regarding Van Graan, Erasmus said: “Listen, he will bring work ethic, a hell of a lot of experience and he is used to pressure situations. He is a guy that coached two weeks ago when they lost 57-0 against the All Blacks and he was one of the guys that tried to turn it around the next week.
“He has won three Super Rugby titles as an assistant coach. He has experience across the range, from attack to defence and he is a very good analyst. He is a wonderful attacking coach and he will add a lot to the lineout work that Jerry [Flannery] is doing. He is the master of all, if I can put it that way.”
Leinster’s bonus-point win over Montpellier at the RDS on Saturday was given added weight by Exeter beating Glasgow 24-15 at Sandy Park on Saturday night without either side earning a bonus point. Leinster thus top a formative Pool 3 before facing Glasgow on their 4G pitch at Scotstoun next Saturday.
“It is unusual to come up against a team of that size,” admitted Cullen. “They are probably the biggest team in Europe or maybe professional world rugby. They are as big a team as you will come across. It’s a different challenge for us. Unless we can suddenly change the genetic profile of kids that grow up in the Leinster catchment area, we are always going to be scrambling against a team of that size.
“It’s a different challenge but we talk about guys putting their body on the line, and in attack we created a lot of opportunities, scored four good tries as well. A lot of positives from the game.” The extent of the physical toll will become clearer today.
Looking ahead to next weekend, Cullen said: Glasgow are very aggressive at everything they do, strong in the carry, very aggressive around the ruck, target guys on the edge all the time, so they are going to be a handful.
“Playing on the astro makes the game a little bit different as well. A lot of our young guys have come through in the last couple of seasons playing on the astro at Donnybrook in the B&I. If you let them play and get into their flow they are a very dangerous team to stop because they play with a lot of intensity and keep the ball moving, keep the point of attack moving so it’s important we don’t give them any easy momentum.”
Following on from Friday night’s 19-9 win over a depleted Wasps, Les Kiss knows that Ulster will need to be better in several ways next Sunday away to La Rochelle, who threw down the gauntlet in Pool One with a bonus-point win away to Harlequins on their debut in the competition.
“It’s a totally different challenge. There’s the pressure in being away. The way they support their team is really massive. The way they play their game is based on this power game and super speed on the edges.
“You might say that Wasps are the same but I do think there is something different about La Rochelle. I think next week we are going to have to produce as good a team effort as we have had all year to beat them. They have been massively impressive at home.
“They have pace so we have to be working hard in threes, and fives and sevens in our defence. If we get isolated in our carries, which I thought we did at times against Wasps but we got away with it because we won the collision, we will find ourselves in trouble.
Connacht host Worcester at the Sportsground next Saturday in what already looks like a key game in Pool 5 of the Challenge Cup after Kieran Keane’s team emulated the Warriors’ 30-20 bonus-point win at home to Brive by following suit with their 43-15 win over Oyonnax in Geneva.
“Really pleased. A long time coming,” said Keane. “It’s great for us. A new competition, the Challenge Cup, gives us another aspiration. We are disappointed about our narrow losses obviously, but you can’t turn it back, so looking forward is what we are all about. The challenge is for us to back it up. The changing room was indicative; a noisy little session, nobody with their heads down. That is the momentum we were searching for, so it would be foolish not to make use of it.”
Confirming that Connacht are at their best in good conditions, they scored five tries on the Stade de Geneve’s artificial playing surface.
“There were some smashing, really smashing tries out there,” said Keane. “But you only have to look at the surface, and I can’t speak highly enough of it because it’s a magnificent stadium. It suited the way we wanted to play. Whoever had the idea, I’d like to shake their hand. Maybe we need one in Galway – can you do something about that?”