Leinster send Munster crashing to earth with a bang
Garry Ringrose ready to take number 13 jersey in Six Nations, claims O’Driscoll
Leinster’s Eoin Reddan and Munster’s Andrew Conway are upended during the Guinness Pro12 game at Thomond Park last night. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
This dose of reality had been coming Munster’s way. Five defeats in a row, three at Thomond Park, the worst of which being this 24-7 beating at the hands of Leinster. But these results had been coming for both teams.
There was a feeling earlier this month watching Leinster put it up to Toulon, the heavyweight champions of Europe, while Munster sort of troubled Leicester, that the blue season could turn for the better by sacking their arch-rivals’ Limerick fortress.
Here lies irrefutable evidence. And plenty more besides regarding selection come the fast-approaching Six Nations.
“It’s been horrendous,” said the Munster coach of the worse period in his rugby career. “We can’t hide away from the fact that we need to get a win that will reignite our season.”
It’s up to Belfast and then on to Paris next with a team lacking accuracy in the opponents 22 and defensive grit in their own.
“The ship is going towards the waterfall so we need to turn it around and head up stream from here,” said Munster captain CJ Stander.
“Could do a whole lot worse than going with Garry Ringrose against Wales on February 7th,” tweeted O’Driscoll after a stunning break by the 20-year-old outside centre – who was only selected due to the departing Ben Te’o’s concussion – set up Isa Nacewa’s fourth minute try.
Immediately it pours fuel on the debate about whether Leinster (and Ireland) should focus more on Ringrose over Te’o for the remainder of the season.
Cullen preached sense and caution.
“I think he is a very good outside centre. We try to bring Garry through slowly this season. He is working away really, really well all the time.
“I have no influence who starts for Ireland in the Six Nations. I think maybe the Irish coaches might have an issue with Brian rather than me.
“We want our young players to be able to play for Leinster for 12 to 15 years so that’s an important part of it. There’s lot of games this season and we want to make sure that guys come through in the right manner.”
But Ringrose is undoubtedly here to stay now.
The future of Keith Earls, however, is again shrouded in some doubt.
The injury-prone 28-year-old required sustained medical attention on the field after a collision in the 36th minute.
“He had a bit of a shock through the body,” Foley explained.
“No, neck pain.”
Earls, it was put to Foley, has had two serious concussive hits in recent months.
“No, it’s the neck. When he fell to the ground and the back of his head hit somebody’s ankle he felt a pain in his chest and in his back so he was taken to hospital. He has been released from hospital with no concerns.”
So the season gets even tougher for Munster and Foley, but for Cullen and Leinster the tide might just be turning. Those were the stakes.
Ireland camp on Sunday so don’t expect to see too many internationals on show when Connacht comes to the RDS on New Year’s Day.
But come to see Ringrose. He looks worth the admission alone.