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Munster v Ulster Friday28th

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  • Munster v Ulster Friday28th

    One of the best months of the year for a provincial rugby fan is about to commence, 6 games in 34 days for Munster ahead, including back to back matches against Clermont and fellow league playoff inhabitants Glasgow and three derbies at home to Ulster and Leinster then away to Connacht. We’ve had a stellar month as a province, the lads who got selected for Ireland all excelled and Munster got 2 wins in Wales. This block of games will define our hopes in both our competitions, you cant win a trophy in December but you can lose it. First up, Ulster in Thomond Park on Friday.


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    Our Form


    Dogged and consistent, the win in Dave Parade was our 6th in a row, victory this weekend and it’ll match our run between November and New Years Day of last season which was ended by Ulster up in Ravenhill. Huge credit should go to the management for seeing the squad through the disruption of the Autumn Internationals with 2 wins and climbing the table whilst without the big guns. The highlights of the game last weekend were scant, but we utilised some great variance to score 5 tries, a pick and go dive from Copeland, two mauled tries and two running tries with Keats and JJ pulling Dragons in all directions. JJ’s dink through was a thing of supreme skill, he stepped infield as he punched the ball to the corner, not many players can kick the ball whilst sidestepping. Above all else though, this has been a season built on pack purity, looking back over the last 10 games we have seen our forwards become far more effective in asserting their dominance than in many years, we are far from the finished article but the pack knows what it wants to do in almost all situations and the backs are improving week on week. The whole squad have bought into the gameplan and have relied on the basics to get the wins, the lineout is a weapon as is the maul, the backline run when they are given ball and the halfbacks are guiding the side around the field.


    Given that this game is the precursor to the Clermont double header it would seem likely that Axel will go as close to full strength as he possibly can. Looking at some of the names that spent the month in Carton House we can look forward to players in form and full of confidence lining out for Munster this Friday, Felix, Foley, TOD and Killer will be chomping at the bit to build upon what the showed in green, Murray POM, ZEBO and Paulie are the calibre of players who could return for the Clermont game seamlessly, Robin Copeland is already showing his worth as a prudent signing with a try last weekend and a massive performance in the Arms Park previous to that. Confidence should be high going into this game.


    Their Form


    4 wins in a row in the league, joint table toppers they’ve lost once in Ravenhill since September 2013 in this competition. Ulster like to keep the ball alive and play attractive rugby, their European season hasnt gotten off to a flier, but they’ll be viewing this game as a good chance to bed in their internationals, and get set to hammer Scarlets home and away. If nothing else, they will want to take a scalp back up to Belfast and stick close to those precious home playoff places. They’ve lost once, away to Zebre and drew in round 1 to the Scarlets in Ravenhil. They’ve scored 23 tries and conceded 7 (we are 20 & 8) so they know their way to the tryline. However, they are beset by a fairly sizeable injury roster: Chris Henry is front and foremost in most minds who follow Irish rugby, fingers crossedhe will come back firing for both Ulster and Ireland, he seems a very decent man. Paddy Jackson damaged a shoulder last weekend against the Ospreys and wont be seen for them till the new year. Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Ruan Pienaar, Luke Marshall, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne are also all unavailable. They do have plenty in their arsenal nonetheless, returning from Leicester Tigers has seen Ian Humphries play a backup role to Paddy Jackson, however he has managed a 83% kicking ratio so far this season and now that Paddy is MIA he will be licking his lips at a night in Thomond, he never seems to play badly when they play down here. They did the double over us last season, firstly on new years day where we went in at half time fifteen points down, Alain Rolland refereed a very very heated game that night, we ended up losing 29-19. The return leg was the last weekend of the domestic fixtures, which we also lost 17-19 as Damien Varley described that performance: "appalling and unacceptable in a Munster jersey". All the more disappointing seeing as we had hammered Edinburgh by 50 odd points the week before, that game of the flaming chip van fame.


    There is never much between these two teams anymore. These games are always high intensity and fraught affairs. Ulster have some top class players still available to them, Rory Best, Wiehann Herbst, Franco Van Der Merve, Robbie Diack, Stuart Olding, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy, Tommy B all spring to mind, this is a very good squad and have pedigree in this league and will push Munster to the pin of their collar for absolutely everything, gonna be a great game.

    Things to watch out for


    Munster keeping their cards very close to their chest, there wont be too much material offered up to the Clermont video analyst. Take our penalties when they come, dictate the pace of the game and dont let Ulster’s pontent back three into the game. Ian Humphries is one channel they can target for big carries, he wouldn't be noted for his enjoyment of felling giants. Ulster have a great defense, they’ll rely on that and try to keep us in our own half as much as they can.


    Quotable and notable


    Many a mickle makes a muckle, having a referee knocking around training is something all teams should be utilizing
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    Teams:

    Munster: JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Ronan O'Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha; Donncha O'Callaghan - capt, Billy Holland; Robin Copeland, Paddy Butler, CJ Stander


    Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Tommy O'Donnell, Sean Dougall, Neil Cronin, Andrew Smith, Felix Jones

    Ulster: S Olding; L Ludik, D Cave, S McCloskey C Gilroy, I Humphreys, P Marshall; C Black, R Best (Capt), W Herbst, A O’Connor, F vd Merwe, R Wilson, S Reidy, N Williams; Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, R Diack, M Heaney, M Allen, P Nelson.
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