For those still drying out from their last visit to Musgrave Park, Rob Penney’s assertion that the Cork stadium is not a happy hunting ground for Munster will be understandable.
The province’s last run-out there, on November 25, saw the hosts lose a competitive game in Cork for the first time since May 2008 when Scarlets had a 13-6 win earned in the midst of a deluge of biblical proportions.
Yet it was a defeat of Munster’s own undoing rather than any Musgrave Park effect that handed Scarlets their victory and the visit of another Welsh region in Cardiff Blues tonight gives Penney and his players the opportunity to right the wrongs of that defeat and maintain the hunt for RaboDirect Pro12 play-off place.
Munster have already beaten the Blues this season, with a hard-earned 24-18 win at Cardiff Arms Park on November 2, and it will not be any easier this evening with the Welshmen welcoming back Grand Slam winners Jamie Roberts, Bradley Davies and Test captain Sam Warburton to their line-up while Leigh Halfpenny is on the bench.
Yet with Munster rumbling into gear for make-or-break European games in the following weeks and boosting their side with some notable returnees themselves, it should be a return to winning ways for Penney’s side against a Welsh outfit 12 points out of the play-off spots and anchored to the bottom of their Heineken Cup pool after a so-far winless campaign.
Naturally, Penney does not see it that way, pointing to Cardiff’s St. Stephen’s Day win over the Dragons that ended a four-game losing run in all competitions.
“They were a really tough game away the last time we played,” the Munster head coach said. “They’ve probably been one of the unluckier teams results-wise and I think they’ll come here having a couple of their long-term injuries back in the frame.”
There is much for Penney’s side to put right from last weekend, not least their failure to close out the win over an understrength Ulster side with a bonus-point try, a lack of ruthlessness similar to that seen in the downpour defeat by Scarlets. But the prospect of next weekend’s trip to Edinburgh, when four tries and a bonus point are an absolute must if Munster’s European campaign is to extend into the knockout stages, should be enough to concentrate minds.
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