You have to credit the Munster Rugby social media department, the debut of the Maori All Blacks to Munster has captured the imagination and another sell-out crowd beckons for Thomond Park on November 11th. The occasion will bring back memories of the superb fixture between Munster and New Zealand in 2008 when the All Blacks grasp victory from the jaws of defeat. The fixture will be recalled for the stirring Munster Haka orchestrated by the likes of Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Lifefimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning. Oh the memories! Tomorrow is destined (weather permitting) to be an exhilarating contest with two teams eager to throw the ball around and score tries.
Maori All Blacks – Team Selection:
The visitors have embraced the fixture evident in the starting lineup announced in midweek. The starting fifteen contains several players with the Super Rugby experience and the rest are representing their provincial clubs in New Zealand. No weak point in this lineup.
|Number:||Player Name:||Provincial Club:||Super Rugby Club:|
|1||Kane Harnes||Bay of Plenty|
|2||Ash Dixon||Hawkes Bay||Hurricanes|
|4||Leighton Price||Hawkes Bay|
|8||Akira Ioane||Auckland Blues|
Maori All Blacks have hit the tour running with an emphatic 54-7 win over USA Eagles at Toyota Park, Illinois on November 4th. This was a dominant display with the Maoris abrasive pack setting the platform for their talented back line the time and space to make decisive game line breaks. Akira Ioane was different class during the contest; his sevens experience and ball carrying was too much for the Eagles at times. The offloading game from the Maoris was on point and the back line was regularly involved in proceedings. James Lowe and Akira Ioane scored a brace each while front row players Ash Dixon and Kane Harmes crossed over also. Maori’s dynamism in the fringes and rucks will test Munster’s charges to the limit. The pack has size with the likes of Ben May in the front row. The inclusion of Franklin in the second row will see Maori’s with a quality lineout operator but Ioane is the man to watch in this fixture. His ball skills, offloading and ability to identify mismatches will be a joy to watch. Maoris have setup camp in Limerick for the entire week; a sign that they are intend on putting on a show at Thomond Park. Munster must be prepared to meet fire with fire and first time tackles need to cut off the quick ruck ball that Maoris crave.
Munster Rugby – Team Selection:
Rassie Erasmus would have being forgiven for fielding a team full of inexperience and youth academy players but the South African’s selection is one which aims to continue the momentum built in recent weeks. The front row has an experienced look to it with Cronin, Scannell and Archer packing down. The second row combination looks exciting with Madigan and O’Shea who was excellent in the win over Ospreys last weekend. His lineout calls will be tested more by a savvier, experienced second row opposition so it will be interesting to see how this unit goes. If Madigan and O’Shea impress, it will give Munster Rugby management with some nice selection posers for the rest of the season safe in the knowledge that these newcomers can step up to the plate and perform for the team. The back row battle on Friday night is going to be epic. Tommy O’Donnell will captain the side from six and will form the line alongside promising Conor Oliver and Robin Copeland who should relish the open space in this contest. Copeland’s ball carrying will be fundamental to Munster asserting influence in this contest.
The half-back partnership is Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley. Both players will look to continue their improvements seen in recent weeks. Williams at nine last week had one of his best games for the province but knows he needs to continue to put in this level of performance with recent signing Aihe Toma on the bench. Keatley needs to get it simple tomorrow; game management and play the percentages. His rehabilitation from a confidence dip season last year continues and needs to be pushing Bleyendaal for the ten jersey for the benefit of the squad.
The back line is a mix of youth and experience. Conway (full-back), Jaco Taute provide experience and for the likes of Rory Scannell who is becoming a leader of the team and the promising wingers Ronan O’Mahony and Darren Sweetnam. Sweetnam on initial appearances looks like a genuine Ireland international in a couple of seasons. Both wingers impressed hugely last weekend but Maoris will test both players defensively in the fringes. The fixture is a great gauge of the progress made by the fledging squad players and should provide Erasmus with an idea of who will be pressing for team selection for the remainder of the season particularly during international windows. Roll on Friday night! The atmosphere will be spectacular and is an occasion to savor. Let us hope that the weather helps both sides play the expansive rugby that the supporters in attendance are looking for.