CJ Stander may be Munster’s go-to ball carrier but he takes exception to Leinster head coach Leo Cullen’s analysis that if you stop him, you stop the reds in their tracks.
Cullen targeted the Ireland and Lions back rower during Leinster’s PRO14 victory over their derby rivals last Saturday, sending his defensive troops out to stop Stander in his tracks and halt his side’s momentum.
Yet as No. 8 Stander prepares to depart for Castres and a Champions Cup Pool 4 opener in France on Sunday, he does not buy into the theory that Munster are overly reliant on his hard yards.
“If they think Munster is just about stopping me then that’s a mistake and it’s going to be tough,” Stander said. “There are 15 guys in the team, we’ve got a full team, for me, that’s international players and they know what to do on the pitch. Just stopping me is not..my Dad used to say ‘you’re not the only swallow in the team’.
“So stopping me is not going to stop Munster at all, I promise you that. Felix (Jones, attack coach) will have a plan.” Munster came up short in their biggest games of last season, the Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens and the Guinness PRO12 final against Scarlets, in part because there was not enough variety in their offensive gameplan and Stander pointed to a more expansive gameplan this season to counter the sort of tactics employed by Leinster.
“If you go through our team there are probably six or seven guys they need to stop and take away their game,” he said. “I think we just need to recognise that and know that’s going to happen this week. That’s why we played the ball a lot wider and I think it works for us.
“If someone targets me I probably need to prove them wrong and try to carry a bit harder... If I don’t make the gainline then that’s on to me. I’m the only guy that can fix that and if they want to be in my face I need to fix that and make sure that I get out of their face.”
Against Leinster, Stander carried five times, more than any other forward on either side, for 15 metres, but insisted there was more to his performance than statistics.
“I felt I didn’t make 20 carries as I used to because I just feel that that’s something I’ve worked on with my game and changed a bit and passed a bit more. I still made my metres.
“Look, if you make eight carries and there is two or three that you get dominated on then it’s going to happen in a game, you just make sure that next time you do it that you dominate them.”
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