Munster face their biggest challenge of the season when they play host to the rich and powerful French side Toulouse in the European Cup quarter final at Thomond Park on Saturday kicking off at 5.45pm. This will be the 157th European Cup game for both sides with a semi final place at stake.
At a crucial time of the season Munster are faced with a number of difficulties. Injuries to Dave Foley (wrist) and Jean Kleyn (neck) have forced them out of contention for the rest of the season while the province’s play maker, Conor Murray, is a doubt as he recovers from a shoulder injury picked up in the Six Nations game against England.
Last week it was reported that experienced international second row Donnacha Ryan is being linked with a move to the French Top 14 with Ronan O’Gara’s club Racing 92. This follows confirmation that the injured Dave Foley, is also bound for France with a move to Pau. On a positive note, Munster Rugby have confirmed two-year contract extensions for back row Jack O’Donoghue and wingers Ronan O’Mahony and Alex Wootton. The trio will now remain with the province until at least June 2019.
In an attempt to shore up his second row, Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has called on the services of Sharks lock Jean Deysel on a three-month loan. The 32-year-old has made seven appearances for South Africa and over 70 Super Rugby appearances. Pending an application for a valid work permit, Deysel may be included in the side to play Toulouse. Deysel and Young Munster scrumhalf Abrie Griesel have been nominated by Munster, under EPCR rules, as additional players for the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup.
Commenting on the situation, Erasmus said, “it’s always a challenge when we have two of our experienced players ruled out through injury, and we have a third, Mark Chisholm, only back training after a year out from the game due to concussion. We needed to bolster the squad in that area with the trio unavailable, especially as we enter the business end of both the Champions Cup and Guinness PRO12. Jean (Deysel) comes with the talent and experience to hit the ground running at this busy period. He will be a valuable addition to the squad.”
Guinness Pro12 Rd 18 Zebre 14 Munster 50
Last weekend Munster travelled to Parma where they scored seven tries in a 50-14 bonus point victory over Italian opponents Zebra in front of just 2,000 spectators at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi. Munster raced to a 21-0 lead with Tyler Bleyendaal converting all three tries from Niall Scannell, Tommy O’Donnell and Ronan O’Mahony before the home side got on the scoreboard with a try from Derick Minnie.
Scannell crossed the whitewash after just three minutes from a maul and Bleyendaal’s conversion gave the visitors a 7-0 lead. Fifteen minutes later Munster had their second try, this time they mauled the home side over the line before Tommy O’Donnell touched down, again Bleyendaal proved why he has been so vital to the province this season.
Munster’s top scorer this year, Ronan O’Mahony, was up next for their third try with Bleyendaal adding the extras before South African flanker Derick Minnie got some return off a five metre line-out after a short period of pressure from the home side. Marcello Violi converted.
Early in the second half Rory Scannell found a gap in the Zebre defence to run though before dotting down for the bonus point try which the Kiwi outhalf again converted. The home side had Marcello Violi sent to the sinbin. Munster took full advantage with Ronan O’Mahony finishing after great work by Darren Sweetnam to grab his second try of the day and eleventh of the season.
James Cronin completed the rout with a brace of tries on his return after a hand injury. This time it was Rosy Scannell who provided the extras after Rassie Erasmus emptied his bench. The only response from Zebre in the second half was a try by Lloyd Greeff which was converted by Serafin Bordoli.