Cardiff Blues v Munster
Munster’s handling of Saracens’ attacking threat last week can be the key to victory over in-form Guinness Pro12 rivals Cardiff Blues this evening at the Arms Park.
That is certainly what assistant coach Ian Costello feels as he looks to send a team minus 10 Irish internationals out with a defensive strategy to combat the Welsh region’s appetite for unstructured play. Saracens posed a similarly dangerous threat in the Champions Cup last Friday at Thomond Park but the Irish province successfully dealt with the kick-chase game plan that has reaped so many tries for the English side.
And having shut down Saracens in a 14-3 win that sent Munster to the top of Pool 1 after back to back wins, Costello will ask for the same again in Wales tonight against a team whose 10th place in the table he feels is no reflection of their abilities.
“The biggest thing, from a defensive point of view, is they average 20 points in the Pro12 so they pose a significant threat and they have had two-bonus point (Challenge Cup) wins in Europe in the last two weeks so that brings their average up to about 25 points a game,” Costello said.
“So for a team who are placed where they are in the Pro12 completely belies the threat they pose so for us it is going to be about keeping the ball as long as we possibly can and playing the game in the right parts of the field. That literally is the fundamental of what we are trying to do so if there are any errors they are high up in the field. They love unstructured rugby, they love broken field rugby and that’s where they are particularly dangerous so we need to manage those situations.”
Head coach Anthony Foley underlined the importance of beating Saracens in terms the boost it would give to his players’ belief in their abilities and Munster’s fourth win in a row during October seemed the perfect way to banish any doubts that may have surfaced during a tricky September, which had been bookmarked by Pro12 home defeats to Edinburgh and Ospreys. Costello, though, disputes the notion the province was at sixes and sevens during the opening month of the campaign.
“I know it’s easy for me to say this now but, genuinely, we wouldn’t have been concerned in the early stages. We under-performed against Edinburgh, but it was early days in a new system.
“I think the Ospreys game was probably the one we were more disappointed with because we were very well prepared for that. But there was no sense of panic, no sense of having to change what we were doing. We just literally have cornerstones for our game and the fundamentals of what we do and we hadn’t had enough practice of those, we hadn’t been together long enough under those new systems to see the fruition.
“Hopefully over the last few weeks we have seen a bit of that. There’s plenty to go. There’s so many improvements we can still make and that’s what we’re going to be striving for. And the same this week with a new group. There’s going to be a lot of changes and we’ve just got to keep driving the standards on.”
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