Departing Smith determined to end on a high for Munster

Paul O’Connell won’t be the only Munster player making his last appearance in the red jersey at the Kingspan Stadium tomorrow night.

JJ Hanrahan is leaving for Northampton Saints and Paddy Butler is on his way to Pau to join his old team-mate James Coughlan in the south of France.

Another leaving the country is Andrew Smith, the Australian who has successfully plugged a massive gap in the centre since his arrival on a one-year contract last autumn.

However, unlike O’Connell who seems to have a whole host of enviable options at his disposal, and Butler who will be accompanied by another Munster back-row Sean Dougall to link up with old colleagues James Coughlan and Simon Mannix, the likeable former Brumbie doesn’t have anything settled.

“We’ll work that out in the coming weeks,” Smith commented, without any evident sense of concern. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here and have become very comfortable in the set-up and with the coaches and all that. I’ve also had a good time with the family. But we’re just not sure of what the next step is at the moment. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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“I probably came over thinking that I might hopefully stay but I wasn’t sure how it would go and what I would have planned for myself and the family. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m happy with that.

“It’s been a great year with the guys and the fans. It’s been incredible to experience the atmosphere here at those big European Cup games and there is nothing like that back home. It’s amazing and they are a memory that will last forever.”

Munster supporters may have had their reservations about Smith at the beginning of the season but, after a series of impressive performances, they see him as a potential game-breaker against the Warriors.

His lines of running, especially in the early stages of the recent rout of the Dragons at Musgrave Park, suggest he is capable of more than we have seen so far.

“I definitely think I’ve been playing better and better,” he says. “As combinations grow and you start to learn how players play around you, that makes your job easier. I’ve learned how to play with Denis (Hurley, his centre partner) and the backs around me as they’ve come back from internationals.

“With new coaches, getting the structures across has probably taken a little bit longer and over the past few months we’ve been playing a lot better rugby.

“The body after the weekend was pretty sore. It was a tough game, probably one of the hardest of the year. I’m just managing the body at this time of the season and just getting it right for the weekend. Finishing my time here with a trophy would be massive.”

Nor does he intend to allow the pending finish of O’Connell’s career with Munster to prove a distraction.

“To be honest, none of the guys really know what’s going on with Paul and I think he’s holding that back. The focus this week is really on the team. If it is his last game, we’d love to send him out as a winner but we’re all focusing on our individual jobs and hopefully that will help the team to win.

“Last week’s was a crazy game, we had a few mental lapses where we let them back in the game when we could have put them away much earlier. That was disappointing and it’s something we need to clean up this week.

“Glasgow are a very good team and have probably been the most consistent all season.

“They finished top of the table, have a lot of internationals, a big physical pack, very good counter-attackers with Hogg at the back and Finn Russell controlling things very well from 10. So we’ll need to be at our very best to win.”

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