Sow with the promise of far too much turkey, ham and roast potatoes ahead of us we settle into a festive season of sport. The interprovincial games happen over Christmas and it is a great marker to show where the Irish provinces are, especially coming off a massive international series in November and a double clean sweep in round 4 of Europe.
Concentrating on the journey of Leinster to Munster and thomond park today. Thomond park used to be a fortress and sometimes it still is. Sometimes the crowd is at capacity and sometimes it is not. Pre-November 2016 the attendance was so far down as was the standard on the pitch.it was patchy just like my complexion in secondary school. Sometimes the game plan was clear and the players where operating at optimal level, and other times it was a calamitous attempt at getting something (anything right). The team was in transition under Rassie Erasmus, but that transition appeared to b a continual thing. Through grit, determination and pure guttural emotion for their loss they got to a semi final and final last year. Unfortunately for Munster they realised that emotion will run out in or around the same time that adrenaline does.
Which brings us to the blue army’s trip to Thomond park to take on the old enemy. In terms of overall fixtures Leinster have put their noses far in front. Earlier in the season when the teams met in the Aviva Stadium in October, Leinster walked to a 23-17 win. A flattering scoreboard for the visitors who where firing blanks on the day. Aside from Earls and Conway, there was no one in red who was putting their best foot forward. That is understandable considering the management upheaval at the time on top of the well known bad management of the club and a mounting debt. Leinster never eft third gear on the day and didn’t stay in third gear for more than 15 minutes throughout the game. That was the first time saw the Munster faithful leaving early.
Both teams have improved massively since then. Munster have installed a new coach who hasn’t really touched anything yet. That is a sign that the new coach is confident and ready for the task. Instead of throwing his ideas and changes in the mix straight away, he is slowly dipping his toes. This will pay massive dividends for the team in the future. The players have stepped up too. Maybe it is the security of a coach along with the emotional boost of having CJ AND O’Mahony sign new deals, but the team looks confident and have taken advantage of a European fixture list of home and away against an old Leicester team.
Leinster on the other hand have had only one blip this season to a good Glasgow team. Strong, confident and with a depth in the squad that has people thinking of them being in line for the double his year. They come in off a massive win against Exeter, you know what happened and how it will make them money when the pressure comes on for the rest of the season. Munster have not been tested like the last game against Exeter, Munster have not had to trust their system, and this will happen in the game on the 26th December.
The squads picked are strong, some new faces coming in to the blue jersey but new doesn’t mean secondary anymore for Leinster. Munster have picked a near full squad taking into account a couple of injuries. It will be a huge game. It will start with intensity at a high! I am hoping both teams work on quick line speed from the start. Really pushing the opposition into errors by forcing them to realise that their defensive line is not one of their strengths. I think this is what Leinster will do. They will charge into Munster with intensity and fight. Munster will eventually crumble, and this will leak into the other parts of the pitch, the lineout and the scrum. Leinster will systematically dissect the Munster men.
There will be 1 score in it, because the home side will never allow themselves to be too far away, but a 7-point win for the visitors is my call.
As usual: twitter.com/nkeegan