‘Completely different’ Munster should be confident ahead of Leinster meeting
DESPITE THE STUNNING 21-point gap separating them in the United Rugby Championship standings, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster confirmed it will be a rejuvenated Munster awaiting them on St Stephen’s Day at Thomond Park.
When the two teams met in the URC at the Aviva Stadium on October 22, Munster extended a 13-7 lead early in the second half before their arch-rivals responded with 20 unanswered points to eventually end the game in a reckless finish style. The Reds eased that defeat a week later with a narrow setback against Ulster, but morale was greatly boosted by their win over South Africa ‘A’ in a historic clash on 10 November at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Back-to-back league victories followed at the expense of Connacht and Edinburgh, and while the Southern Provinces had to settle for a lost bonus point against Toulouse in their first Heineken Champions Cup game of the season, last Sunday saw a 17-6 triumph over Northampton Saints reckons them for a European knockout spot.
“I think their results have obviously improved. They had a very good win in Edinburgh after falling behind. The game against South Africa seemed to be a catalyst for them with their results. It was a very good win against Northampton. I know how badly Northampton wanted to win this game,” Lancaster remarked at a Leinster media briefing in UCD yesterday.
“They still have the resilience and defensive strength and set pieces organization that you see every year, but now they have more detail in terms of their attacking form. They work harder off the ball and you can generally see what they’re trying to do in attack. It’s a very different style than 18 months ago, isn’t it?
You could [previously] pretty sure the boxkick is the number one exit policy. Now it’s a boxkick, but it could also be a mindset to run, so there’s definitely been an evolution. That’s the sort of thing we talked about in the preview because it would be pretty naïve to think they’re not confident now – because they should be.
The Lancaster, tied from Racing 92, is well acquainted with Munster manager Graham Rowntree after the four years they spent together with the England side as head coach and forward coach respectively.
Eddie Jones was Lancaster’s eventual replacement on the England hotseat, but a disappointing string of results saw the Australian be relieved of his duties in recent weeks. Steve Borthwick has been tasked with stabilizing the ship ahead of next year’s Six Nations and World Cup campaigns, with Lancaster insisting the former lock is capable of making an immediate impact.
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“I’m really pleased he got the job because he’s an England manager and has gone through the system a bit like me as I got the interim job at a very similar point in time. It was December 2011 so it was a very short run to the Six Nations and we made extensive changes to the squad and won four out of five games,” Lancaster added.
“It is more than possible to do well with the squad that he has. He will really benefit from his time with England [as assistant coach to Jones]. I had nothing to do with the previous coach. I was the coach of the Saxons and I was at the 2011 World Cup accompanying Martin Johnson’s team, so I had my own ideas about how I would run the camp and what I wanted to do in terms of the schedule.
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“So Steve will really benefit from that. He knows the area, he knows the players and he knows English rugby and he proved with Leicester Tigers that he can turn a bottom-of-the-table team into a team that can win the title.
“I don’t think it’s as concerning as people are claiming he’s taking it on at this point. He’s got that run-in to the World Cup and the tournament itself and the four years after that. So it’s a five-year deal and I’m sure he’ll do his best.”
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