Heading into this evening’s much-discussed Guinness Pro12 encounter with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, Munster find themselves in the unusual position of having already lost two of their three home games to date.
Speaking yesterday at the Guinness Storehouse (where he was joined by former Leinster prop Paul Wallace and Sky Sports commentator, Stuart Barnes), ex-Munster and Ireland back-row Alan Quinlan feels the Red Army’s poor home form has been somewhat exaggerated owing to a number of factors, but agrees the current absence of the Thomond Park aura is worrying.
“The opposition team gets some inspiration going to Thomond Park, and they raise their game a little bit,” Tipperary native Quinlan said yesterday.
“Then Munster, obviously, are not playing well. They’re a bit disorganised, haven’t got guys back, and then suddenly they’re not getting the results. It’s working both ways,”
Quinlan believes there were too many distractions for fans last weekend.
“Last Saturday was probably the easiest day in your life to stay at home and watch sport. From an Irish point of view, the hurling was on, the Ryder Cup was on, rugby was on.
“There’s French rugby, there’s Premiership soccer. You would have no-one from Tipperary in there, because they’re all either watching the hurling or gone to the hurling.
“There is a big group from my home county that travel to Thomond Park,” he said.
“But I think playing in a stadium with 26,000 is always going to have issues unless you have a big, massive game. It’s like going to Edinburgh with 2,000 people on it.
“That Ospreys game would have been in Cork [Musgrave Park] last week if not for the redevelopment. That’s the reality of it.
“So, it’s not as big an issue as people are kind of making out, but there is a little bit of a worry Thomond Park isn’t a hard place to go and win now. Where that aura was there in Munster, the RDS and Aviva thing now is like what it was.”
As regards the game itself, Quinlan feels both sides have started the season slowly, and with qualification places at stake, they will need to pick up their form in the coming weeks.
Injuries are not helping the cause of either team at the moment, but Quinlan believes Leinster can cope because of their greater strength in depth.
“I think both teams are not firing. They’ve both lost two games each.
“With qualification now, I think it’s vital you don’t suddenly find, after four or five rounds, you’re way behind the pack.
“They’ve both been slow. I think they both have some defence for being slow with injuries.
“Munster probably don’t have the same depth as Leinster.
“They have four or five guys who have been crucial to them. Donnacha Ryan, Keith Earls, Mike Sherry and Damien Varley, for me, were the big losses.
“I think Leinster have obviously had [Cian] Healy and [Sean] O’Brien, but I think they have more depth, when you have Jack McGrath to come in and Rhys Ruddock for those guys,” Quinlan added.
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