Alan Reilly is a Munster supporter and is part of Talking Rugby Podcast.
unster’s RaboDirect PRO12 results so far:
Edinburgh (A) 18-23 win
Benetton Treviso (H) 19-6 win
Ulster (A) 20-19 loss
Newport Gwent Dragons (H) 33-13 win
Ospreys (A) 30-15 loss
Leinster (A) 30-21 loss
The start of Munster’s first season under Rob Penney was not expected to be without pitfalls, and so it proved. The first block of the RaboDirect PRO12 served up a difficult phase of games for Munster, with only two home games and trips to four sides with Play-Off ambitions. It is therefore not too surprising that Munster are only 3 from 6 going into the start of the Europe. It would have taken an exceptional team to win all of those six games without one hiccup along the way.
There are more positives than negatives to take from the first six games; various players who would have been outside of the first XV such as Dave Kilcoyne, Billy Holland, Sean Dougall, Ian Keatley and Luke O’Dea emerged as prospects. Keatley, who last season was guilty of erratic form from the kicking tee, has shown enough goal kicking consistency along with his excellent general play to challenge for Ronan O’Gara’s place. In a season where transition is the watchword, this kind of fight for a starting spot will benefit both the new and established players. Along with the exploits of individuals, there is also evidence of a new style of play, with more emphasis placed on playing attractive rugby.
When Munster have clicked, some good tries have been scored so there is reason to be optimistic about Munster’s prospects.
On the other hand, the three lost games perhaps suggest that Munster cannot mix it with the big boys. The Ospreys defeat was more damning than the score line suggested, as Munster’s pack was bullied by their Welsh counterparts.
Admittedly the Ulster result was a close call, but Leinster won by nine points despite a plethora of injuries. It is those difficult away fixtures where the bar is set for Munster and to lose three from four away games is a bad omen, along with the fact that Munster needed no extra motivation to beat any of those sides, for various reasons. One could say that the litmus tests for Munster this season have not gone well thus far.
Once Rob Penney irons out the few selection dilemmas of the squad, one should expect more fluid performances from Munster. It remains to be seen where Keith Earls will settle in the side, as Downey and Laulala combined well in the centre in the first few fixtures. The backrow selection has yet to be decided upon with many players pushing for starting roles, Felix Jones will return soon from injury to add to Munster’s backline resources while Paul O’Connell’s imminent return to PRO12 action will be a massive boost to the team.
Biggest surprise so far?
Edinburgh’s poor start to the season, I expected them to do better with the squad they have this year.
Most valuable player so far this season?
Tim Visser, despite Edinburgh struggling he is scoring tries for fun.
Overall season prediction for your side?
Munster have gotten many of the toughest fixtures out of the way so they should make the Play-Offs.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?
Ulster have been the most impressive side in the PRO12 this season but I still fancy Leinster to do it.