Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will be holding talks this week with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and IRFU performance director David Nucifora before considering his side to play Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on Friday.
Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, and CJ Stander are among those who return from international duty and a fair percentage will be kept back for the Champions Cup clash with Leicester Tigers on December 10.
“We’ll mix and match to make sure we adhere to the player management plan,” said Erasmus. “It’s important for us to manage the players, so that they are not only fit for us, but also for Ireland.
“Our confidence is high. You see commitment in defence and confidence in attack. When guys are beginning to attack at a training session, trying to do things within their skill set when the opportunity is there, confidence is shining through. The most important thing is to make sure that confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance.”
Clubs throughout the province have good reason to be grateful to Erasmus for the way he has released a number of young players to play in the Ulster Bank League.
An interesting example at the week-end was Bill Johnston, a schools international and the key man for Rockwell in their Munster Senior Schools Cup victory two years ago, when he was regarded as one of the most promising out-halves to emerge on the under-age scene for some time. Johnston was starring for Ireland in the World Under-20 Cup last summer when his campaign was ended by a shoulder injury. He has recovered and again demonstrated his potential with a fine performance in the AIL for Garryowen against Young Munster at the week-end, with many observers of the opinion that, having held his own in a fiery Limerick “derby” at the age of 20, he’s ready for the next step up the ladder.
“Bill is not a player we don’t know about. He’s coming back from injury, so we have trained with him a lot for the last four or five weeks, but now he has game time under his belt and has got his confidence back. We all know he is a wonderful player. He’ll get battle-hardened with big boys running at him in that channel playing club rugby, feeling the pressure when kicking for goal or for touch, anything. It’s great to have a set-up like that. So I think everyone in Ireland is fortunate to have a club system that is decent.
“The clubs have an arrangement with George [Murray, the Munster video analyst]. All the videos get uploaded on to a server that we get on a Monday. The film work is good and you can do a proper analysis. The standard is really skilful. While you can train as much as you want to, but a player has to feel pressure in a game. It’s easy to have technique but when you can do it under pressure, it becomes a skill.
“The league is of such quality that you can see which players are skilful and which players are not.”
Erasmus feels all four provinces will benefit from the success of the national side.
“If it’s good for us, it must be great for Leinster, because they have about 15 or 17 guys in the 23, or even more”, he said. “It’s good for Irish rugby, for world rugby, that Australia and New Zealand have been beaten by Ireland. It’s good for the Northern Hemisphere”.
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