Young flanker Conor Oliver has been tipped for the top by Munster A head coach Peter Malone following a series of stellar displays.
Oliver won successive man of the match awards in Munster A’s B&I Cup win over Ealing Trailfinders and in the senior Guinness PRO12 win over Glasgow.
The 21-year-old openside scored two and made another of Munster’s three tries as they saw off the Ealing challenge with an excellent display to book a place in a home final against Jersey Reds. He was then at his destructive best in helping Munster get past Glasgow to give credence to Malone’s view that a bright future beckons.
At six foot and 15 stone 7 pounds, Oliver might be considered by some to be a tad too short and light, but Malone was quick to compare his physique to two of the greatest open sides ever produced, Australia’s David Pocock and Michael Hooper, each of whom have 65 Test caps to their credit.
Not the biggest guy in the world? “People say it’s something that keeps coming up, but his performance against a typical English Championship pack (huge) was outstanding, he was taking those guys on and in general he suffers nothing in terms of physicality week after week. Look, he’s pushing hard in this Munster squad, he wants to go all the way and I believe this guy has the potential to go all the way.
“People can talk about size but when you look at his performances there is no reason why he can’t be like a Pocock or a Hooper, push and push and push into the Munster team and hopefully longer-term onto a higher level again. He’s only 21 and already from last year I can see how much bigger he is physically.
“He has time on his side and plenty of time to bulk up, he’s training now as a man and that man training is coming through now.”
Malone remarked following the first of his two most recent stand-out displays — against Ealing: “Listen, he had a stand out game, we’re all very happy with Conor’s form at the moment, I just think in this game he had a massive impact. His work rate, which in the most important thing and the thing you can control the most, he worked so hard and he puts himself in situations where he gets those opportunities.
“He scored an intercept try and that intercept from the half way line was the result of him getting off the ground, getting into the defensive line and coming off the line so hard that the ball just came into his hands. Yes, he had 40 yards or more to go but he then showed pace and skill to finish that try. The inter change between himself and Kevin O’Byrne for another try was super football from both of them.
“Of course it’s not all about individuals but in fairness to Conor when a guy has an outstanding performance, which he did have; it has to be recognised and lauded.”
The B&I Cup final is set for Musgrave Park tomorrow night at 7.30pm against Jersey Reds, shock semi-final victors over London Irish. “We won’t be taking anything for granted with Jersey. They caused a bit of a surprise in beating London Irish and they did it away from home as well so they won’t be intimidated by having to play on the road.” The Reds play in the English Championship and achieved a best finish of fifth in England’s second tier this season.
A brace of charter flights will be carrying the Jersey squad, coaching team and around 100 supporters for what has been described as the most significant in the history of Jersey RFC, which has roots stretching back to 1879.
JERSEY REDS (v Munster ‘A’:
R Adair, G Watkins, J Davies, AMa’afu, N Scott, C Sheedy, K Hardy;J Woolmore, J Buckley, S Kerrod, J Voss, P Phillips, J Freeman (capt), G Graham, N Haining.
N Selway, S McCarthy, J Armstrong, U Kolo’ofa’i, M Argyle; J Dudley, L Robling.
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