Munster go into this afternoon’s Champions Cup clash looking to get a win to kick off their European ambitions for the season.
The southern province have lost two of their last three games, falling to Glasgow and Leinster either side of a dominant home victory over the Cardiff Blues.
As such, a win away in France would be a timely boost for the confidence and it would set them up nicely when they welcome Racing 92 to Thomond Park on Saturday. Racing 92’s win and Leicester Tigers losing bonus point puts an onus on Rassie Erasmus’ side to get come away with at least a point, anything less would be deemed a massive disappointment.
However, an injury crisis at lock has seen Munster struggle in the tight exchanges in recent games and although Robin Copeland deputised alongside stalwart Billy Holland against Leinster last week, Mark Flanagan, the 28-year-old on loan from Saracens comes into the starting line up for today’s clash.
Pundit Arena spoke to former Leinster and Ireland international, Kevin McLaughlin during the week and he believes that their problems at lock are damaging the overall team performance.
“I think they’re feeling not having some of their first choice second-rows in there. I think that just leaves a gaping hole and it’s hard to understand how important your engine room is until your missing them. Robin Copeland, as good as he is in the open space, he’s not a second-row. A lot of Munster’s game is around being physical up front, mauling the ball, winning some of those tight exchanges. If you’re missing some of your big second-rows, even having someone coming off the bench to make a huge difference…”
Ultimately, McLaughlin isn’t convinced that Munster can come away with four points in their European opener against Castres but he does expect them to come away with a losing bonus point.
“For Munster, I’d be a bit more worried, this second-row issue will be exacerbated away to Castres. Another giant pack, I’ve played away to Castres a couple of times and it’s a hard place to win at the best of times.
“I’d expect a narrow Munster loss, I think and hope they come away with a bonus point.”
Munster do come into this match with a much more settled backline which sees Tyler Bleyendaal revert to outhalf, Rory Scannell coming in at inside-centre and Simon Zebo taking up the fullback position.
Kick off is at 1 pm.
Kevin McLaughlin, VP Operations, EMEA at Kitman Labs was speaking ahead of the One-Zero conference which takes place on the 17th October 2017. For more information go to www.one-zero.com.’