GRAHAM ROWNTREE INTENDS to delay his Munster team selection until as late as possible this week due to the ferocious competition for red jerseys.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the back row, with Tom Ahern putting his hand up by claiming two tries in a powerful performance against Glasgow Warriors on Friday.
John Hodnett also crashed over the line and Gavin Coombes played a major role in two more scores.
That’s before you even consider the expected returns of Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue from respective shoulder and ankle injuries in the coming fortnight.
“We have real competition, particularly in the back row,” said head coach Rowntree after the 40-29 victory at Musgrave Park.
“Potentially we have Pete and Jack coming back for the Exeter game, not this week, but who are we dropping?
“I didn’t even put Brian Gleeson on tonight, which won’t do him any harm. He’s done nothing wrong but we didn’t need to bring him on. I thought Gav Coombes did very good.
“We have competition there and in the backline, you can see our centre partnership, and Seán O’Brien, a centre player on the wing, adds an air of composure to our back play.
“And Calvin (Nash) has been outstanding, him and Shane (Daly), for a year now. It’s exciting.
“There’s some real competition for places and I’ll pick the team as late in the week as possible. See how people train, try some different combinations.”
Edwin Edogbo overcame a minor hamstring complaint to make a try-scoring return to action, while captain Diarmuid Barron also touched down. He later sustained a rib injury, which Rowntree played down.
John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, and Simon Zebo will be assessed on Monday after their various bumps and bruises ruled them out this weekend.
Kleyn and O’Mahony’s influence could be key as Munster look to rectify their maul defence which capitulated in conceding five tries to Glasgow.
Rowntree is confident it’s a “technical issue” which will be resolved but sounded a note of warning about Saturday’s opponents Bayonne.
“They’re big. We’ve had a good look at them as coaches, we do our scout 10 days out, and they’ve a big, French pack.
“They love a maul. It’ll be a big challenge.”
The return of big European nights at Thomond Park has Rowntree excited, and Munster’s improving formline gives him more reason to look ahead with optimism.
“It’s definitely coming together. Without scoreline momentum last week (against Leinster) we got our game going, and we continued it today with our attack.
“The European Cup is a special competition, I can hear that music already, the European music. It’s special to the club.
“It’s been on the horizon for a few weeks. I haven’t let the lads think about it or speak about it, we’ve got to get these games out of the way, get Glasgow out of the way.
“We’ll look at that next week.”
The new Champions Cup format features four pools of six teams with the top four from each progressing to the round of 16. It won’t alter Munster’s approach, though.
“Week by week, it doesn’t change,” said Rowntree.
“That’s how we think anyway, the way we train and treat selection. Who has trained well? Who has played well? Week by week.
“I’m not smart enough to think any differently than that.”2023-12-04T06:12:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd