Tadhg Beirne has described the return of Conor Murray and Chris Farrell as a massive boost for Munster’s European ambitions.
Scrum-half Murray and centre Farrell made comebacks from long-term injury last Friday as the province hammered Edinburgh 44-14 in Cork, and Beirne, their team-mate and fellow Irish international believes the addition of the backline duo has put Munster in a great position as they prepare for the home and away Heineken Champions Cup rounds against Castres.
The champions of France will visit Thomond Park on Sunday for the round three clash, looking to build on their second-round defeat of Exeter Chiefs, which leaves them two points off the pace being set by Munster in Pool 2.
The performances of both Murray and Farrell in their seasonal starts against Edinburgh were a huge positive for Munster heading into the next block of games. Both played a full 80 minutes with Murray, recovered from a neck injury after being sidelined since his return from Ireland’s June tour to Australia, slotting right back into to top form before finishing the game on the right wing as part of an injury-prompted backline reshuffle. Farrell, meanwhile, earned man-of-the-match honours grabbing the first and last tries in an eight-try demolition at Musgrave Park. Both impressed second-row Beirne, who was delighted to have played with them for the first time in red having joined from Scarlets during the summer.
“Everyone knows Conor is probably the best nine in the world, his box-kicking is outstanding, his speed of play is outstanding, you could see on Friday night he even went to the wing at the end and he just fitted in like it was nothing,” Beirne said.
“I played with Chris at (Ireland) U20 level so I knew how good he was back then. He is a big powerful ball carrier, really agile on his feet and has some incredible passing ability as well. He was showing that out there again so that puts us in a great position going forward in Europe.
Beirne said the return of key players such as them gave the whole squad a lift.
“Boys are still fighting for positions. It just lifts the standards in training, especially the quality of the likes of Murray and Farrell, Tyler and all those boys coming back, even Jaco (Taute). The better training week you have the better chance you have of playing really well on the weekend, so that is what we get from those guys coming back.”
Munster will be looking to build on an unbeaten start to their Champions Cup campaign in October which saw Johann van Graan’s team earn a draw at English title-chasers Exeter Chiefs and then grab a bonus-point win at home to Gloucester ahead of the back-to-back games with Castres.
“This club gets very excited when it comes to Europe,” Beirne said. “We have put ourselves in a good position from the first two games, we certainly need to keep that up. We have two massive games in a row against a strong French outfit. They are still in it, so you can be sure they are hoping to get a scalp off us next week.”
If Munster are to win this weekend then Beirne believes the team will have to improve on the defensive mistakes which led to Edinburgh’s two tries at Musgrave Park. “You have to be prepared for anything, don’t you? I think we did well in some phases and in some phases they stretched us and we had to really dig deep to hold them out, so I think we can be pleased in certain areas and then we did leave in some tries, so we are going to have to look at those as well and see where we went wrong. Going into Europe the next two weeks we don’t want to be leaking tries.