Injury hit Munster wary of Ulster threat

Munster’s Conor Murray and Gavin Coombes after last weekend's defeat against Leinster

AHEAD of the break for the autumn Nations Series, Munster round-off their current block of United Rugby Championship fixtures with a visit from Ulster to Thomond Park tomorrow (Saturday) at 5.15pm.

Although it was a gritty performance by injury-plagued Munster against Leinster in the Aviva Stadium at the weekend, it ultimately ended in their fourth defeat (27-13) of the season. 

However, in his post-match assessment to the gathered press, head coach Graham Rowntree was upbeat in the knowledge that his team are under pressure with a visit from the northerners, representing a third derby match in just four weeks.

“When is it not a big game? Coming off a defeat as well, of course it’s a big game. We’re at Thomond Park and it will be great for that support playing at home.

On the happenings in front of an attendance of 45,000 in Dublin, he said: “We keep improving. I’m seeing elements of our game coming through, elements of how we are training coming through, as I did last week. We keep driving that and look at what we can do better. It’s been challenging”. 

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“The injury list has been mounting. Everyone gets injuries, I’m not blaming that, it’s a fact.”

Munster’s latest injury came in the form of Stephen Archer who underwent ankle surgery on Monday.

“There’s a lot of young men there having to step up and they’re learning. They’ll be better for it. We’ll have a very honest review again and we drive on.”

“I’m proud of the lads. I just told them there, I’m proud of them. There’s a sombre mood in there, some young men who wanted to do better. I thought they deserved better than the scoreline.”

Earlier in the week, Munster confirmed two-year contract extensions for Tom Ahern, Calvin Nash, and Fineen Wycherley, while prop John Ryan returns as short-term injury cover, and Irish-qualified centre Oli Morris has joined the province until the end of the season. 

In a further positive boon for the team, Simon Zebo, Mike Haley, and Roman Salanoa are all now match fit. 

Commented Leinster coach Leo Cullen on Saturday: “You have to give Munster a huge amount of credit. You see them there at the end in terms of battered bodies coming off the field. They kept throwing everything at us which is what you want to see in a provincial derby game.

“They have a lot of young guys there in their 23. They have a fair few injuries leading into the game. I thought they dug in and scrambled unbelievably well. They scrapped for everything, particularly close to the goal-line. We weren’t quite accurate enough so some of it is in our control.”