I thought my days of accumulating caps finished a long time ago, but not so. Thirty-three years after featuring for the British and Irish Lions as part of the IRB’s centenary celebrations in Cardiff, test recognition yielded just that.
Munster defence coach JP Ferreira is the first to acknowledge that Faf de Klerk and Craig Casey are at contrasting points in their careers but he can think of nobody better than the World Cup winner for the young Limerick scrum-half to follow.
Whatever about losing the World Cup final, English rugby had every right to be feeling good about itself and the future of the game after a successful tournament in Japan — until, of course, they found themselves with a PR nightmare on their hands with revelations about Saracens and their manipulation of the Premiership salary cap.
With the cream having risen to the top and the four best sides left standing in the tournament providing two contrasting semi-final shootouts, we are left, with a potentially explosive final with rugby north and south of the equator set for a fascinating head to head.
This World Cup serves to remind us that previous form or results counts for little. The fact that Ireland had won two of their previous encounters against New Zealand only handed Steve Hansen and his coaching staff a template to beat us when it mattered most.
New Zealand and South Africa have won five of the eight Rugby World Cup titles between them. Ahead of the semi-finals — and a potential NZ v SA final —sat down with Munster duo, Kiwi Alby Mathewson and Springbok Arno Botha, to talk World Cups, Test dreams, beer and chocolate.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan knows all there is to know about South Africa’s major domestic competition, the Currie Cup. Given that the Cheetahs — one of his side’s two Guinness PRO14 opponents over the next fortnight — were recently crowned champions of the 130-year-old tournament, he is aware of the challenge awaiting his team.
We’ve been down this road before, on seven different occasions now since Paul O’Connell, in tandem with Ronan O’Gara, lifted the Heineken Cup aloft in Cardiff 11 years ago after Munster beat the tournament’s greatest side to that point in a memorable 16-13 win over Toulouse.
Peter O’Mahony is acutely aware of the threat Gloucester pose to Munster’s European quarter-final qualification hopes and the Ireland back-row star is rolling up his sleeves for a tough battle up front at Kingsholm, not least with their Springbok forward Franco Mostert.
Just when Munster were offered a bit of breathing space with Exeter Chiefs recording an excellent away win over Gloucester at Kingsholm on Friday night, Johann van Graan’s side were unable to take advantage, conspiring to lose an eminently winnable game against Castres, writes