MUNSTER HAVE BOUNCED back remarkably well in the Heineken Cup to give themselves every hope of finishing as comfortable winners of Pool 6.
Rob Penney’s men will have thunderous welcome lined up for Edinburgh — the only team to beat them in Europe this season — next weekend but an away win over Gloucester is first on the agenda.
Here are three battles we feel will go a long way to deciding who emerges victorious at Kingsholm tomorrow evening (kick-off at 6pm).
BJ Botha v Yann Thomas
The South African gave Perpignan loose-head Sébastien Taofifenua a torrid time of it at the Stade Aime Giral in the last round. Botha used his superior technique to outwit and out-manoevre his opponent, and his considerable bulk, and earn a penalty try.
Botha’s opponent tomorrow is the 23-year-old Yann Thomas, who made the breakthrough with Gloucester last season. Munster will be happy to keep the ball in tight and work the English side over at the scrum. Rob Penney’s man have a considerable advantage in this department and will be eager to make it tell.
Tommy O’Donnell v Matt Kvesic
An intriguing battle awaits between two opensides that are just starting their international careers. O’Donnell, 26, only came to the fore last season with Munster and impressed suitably to earn himself an Ireland call-up. Kvesic has played twice for England but is five years O’Donnell’s junior.
Tommy O’Donnell and Ian Nagle in Munster training at U.L this week. INPHO/James Crombie
Kvesic was earmarked for England duty from the age of 17 and there was some consternation at former club Worcester when he was tempted to Kingsholm. O’Donnell — a powerful runner and a man who racks up the tackle count — looked set to finally nail down the 7 jersey vacated by David Wallace. Injury meant Sean Dougall stepped in but the Cahir native is back in-situ and will be vital to keeping the home side stuck in the tar.
Conor Murray v Dan Robson
Munster were handed a huge boost when Conor Murray was declared fit to return to action. Given that Cathal Sheridan — his deputy — is out injured, Murray’s return could not have come at a better time. The Limerick native offers a running threat and the Munster defence is much better for his presence.
Gloucester coach Nigel Davies has thrown another talented youngster into this Heineken Cup fixture in the form of Dan Robson. The 21-year-old well feel better with out-half Freddie Burns in close proximity but may find himself under the pump and ask to make quick, smart decisions if the Munster scrum starts to ask questions.
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