Francis Saili available for crunch Christmas derby dates

The clock may be ticking but there is still no definite news on whether South African centre Jaco Taute will be available to Munster in 2017. His temporary contract comes to an end on January 1st so a decision as to whether his stay with Munster can be extended must be made imminently.

The saga has dragged on for far longer than director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would have liked and in that time Taute has become a very definite favourite with fans and team-mates alike. Erasmus confirmed that Francis Saili, the New Zealand centre whom Taute was signed to replace, will be available for the two Guinness PRO12 games against Leinster at a sold-out Thomond Park on Monday (St Stephen’s Day) and Connacht in Galway on New Year’s Eve. Erasmus has been clearly impressed by Saili’s keenness to get back into action.

“He’s the kind of guy who enjoys it when Munster plays well so he wouldn’t be bothered that Jaco played well,” he said. “He’d like to play well with Jaco and Rory (Scannell) or Dan (Goggin) and we are just so excited to see him out on the park. Now it’s our job to make sure we manage him back into the system whilst trying to win all the time as we change and test combinations. It’s an interesting time for us but surely a very good situation to be in.”

Erasmus has no fresh injuries to worry about and his major dilemma is in figuring out his best blend for the two Interpros given that his hands are tied by IRFU stipulations on the availability of some marquee name players.

“We have to rest and manage some of the international players so it will be challenging,” he acknowledges. “But we’re lucky we’re playing Irish teams in Connacht and Leinster who have to do the same. We have IRFU guidelines that are communicated to all the provinces. They don’t tell us specifically for any game, it’s more over a stretch of time, so many games that they play. We must try and spread it around over the two matches but then sometimes you might spread it and lose both games so you want to make sure you do the right thing. We haven’t quite made up our minds yet.

“It would be stupid to have them play nine games in a row and that’s the reason behind Joe (Schmidt), David Nucifora and the IRFU (stance). You always say the next game is more important and the next game is more important because jobs are on the line and supporters are wanting you to win so it’s good that we do it that way.”

The mood in the Munster camp yesterday was positive but Erasmus admitted to considerable disappointment at losing in Leicester at the weekend and with it a seven match winning run.

“The Glasgow game, the drop goal might not have gone over and we could have been sitting with long faces and the drop goal against Ulster might not have been over and we’d be sitting with long faces,” he accepted. “It was much the same way this week, their kick might not have been over we would have won and that would have masked over maybe a few problems that were in the game. But luckily the boys are pretty determined to analyse the actual performance and not just look at the scoreboard.

“And there was disappointment because there were a lot of things we didn’t do right. There were some individual battles that we lost and a few things that went well so the mood is more disappointed not so much in the scoreboard but with actual things that weren’t supposed to be so tough that we got wrong.

“Discipline wasn’t good when giving away certain penalties. You can always argue how one or two penalties shouldn’t have gone against you but you’re just bluffing yourself. It evens out and the same would have happened on their side. No, our discipline wasn’t good.

“We must be realistic... when people talk about Leicester — Richard Cockerill is a very good coach and when you look at them individually, they have great players. They don’t go from a great team to a bad team all of a sudden. They lie fourth in their own Premiership table which is supposed to be one of the toughest competitions in the world. So the standard of play was more the result of a desperate team to do it for their coach and their club. It was like Test match rugby where it was three points here and there and there wasn’t a lot of constructive rugby. It was as if the stakes of losing were too high and sometimes that forces teams to play differently.”

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