Munster Chase Their Best Start In 11 Years


Munster coach Johann van Graan will be hoping his team can shake off the rust that may have gathered because of last week’s postponement when they host Ospreys in Sunday’s prime time GuinnessPRO14 game in Limerick.

Munster have been one of the in-form teams in the PRO14 so far, and are one of three teams that remain unbeaten. However, it will be noted that whereas the other unbeaten teams, Leinster and Ulster, have played five games, Munster has played just four after last week’s away clash against Benetton was called off because of positive Covid-19 tests in the home camp.

Should Munster win on Sunday against the Ospreys it will represent their best start in the PRO14 in the last 11 years as it has been that long since they last won their first five matches, something that is quite confounding if you consider how consistent they have been recently. Van Graan’s men, far from being rusty, will probably be refreshed and should be expected to easily beat the visiting Welsh team and strengthen their position at the top of Conference B.

In the other conference, an interesting tussle is developing between leaders and champions, Leinster, and Ulster. While Leinster has just kept rolling along like they usually do, Ulster has become incrementally stronger with each game they have played, and their trip to Parma to play Italian side Zebre on Monday night will be an opportunity to build further on the momentum.

They were excellent in dispatching Glasgow Warriors 40-15 earlier in this week and although Zebre has shown flashes of form recently, the Irish side, with Springbok looseforward Marcel Coetzee very much their talisman, should be expected to win.

If you look at recent history, Leinster have a tougher assignment this week even though they are at home. Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh, with several players with South African roots in his mix, started this season poorly and were perhaps suffering from the hangover of having unexpectedly lost their first home PRO14 semi-final against Ulster at the end of the 2019/2020 season.

However, they have won two on the bounce now and go to Dublin to play Leinster in Dublin in the late Monday night game with the confidence that comes with having been one of the more recent conquerors of Leinster on their home ground. That is some time ago now, but the memory of Edinburgh’s away win over another Irish team, Munster, in last year’s competition should still be relatively fresh and they will go to the RDS Arena feeling they have a chance.

Adding to Edinburgh’s motivation is the knowledge that they would have travelled to Dublin to play Leinster in last season’s final had Ulster not tripped them up in the final quarter of their semi-final at Murrayfield. So for them, it is the final that never happened.

But the last time Leinster lost at home in the PRO14 was against Glasgow Warriors in 2018 and if the extent of their recent form can be summed up by the fact that a bonus-point win in this game will put them just one short of the all-time record of seven successive bonus-point wins.

Benetton, who travel to Newport to play Cardiff Blues, and Connacht, who host Scarlets in the first game of the weekend on Saturday night, will just be pleased to get back onto the field again after Covid-19 kept them off the field for the past two weeks, making this their respective first games in three weeks.
Weekend fixtures
Connacht v Scarlets (Galway, Saturday 21.35)
Munster v Ospreys (Limerick, Sunday 16.45)
Zebre v Ulster (Parma, Monday 20.00)
Cardiff Blues v Benetton (Newport, Monday 21.45)
Leinster v Edinburgh (Dublin, Monday 22.15)