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23rd Oct 2016

Can Munster keep this ferocity up? We asked the men that matter

If they can, glory awaits

Patrick McCarry

It was all for Anthony Foley on Saturday but will it ultimately be for nothing? CJ Stander and Rassie Erasmus think not.

I’ve got to admit I was worried for Munster as they shelled passes and fumbled balls at the break-down during the warm-ups at Thomond Park. No way their heads could be right.

The players then stood and absorbed an impeccable minutes’ silence for their late coach, Anthony Foley. Many of them tried to hold back the tears. Many failed.

No-one could blame them. No-one would blame them if they did not win against a very good Glasgow Warriors.

That was never going to happen. These players would not allow it.

Stephen Archer after the game 22/10/2016

The first 66 seconds set the tone for the game.

Munster tore into Glasgow, welcomed confrontation and savaged them in the collisions. All over the park, players made positive, cutting first contributions. Make your first impact count, players are often told. These men did.

Jaco Taute and the Scannell brothers, Rory and Niall, Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls all made their presence felt before Tyler Bleyendaal blazed in a brilliant opening try.

24-3 at the break after a sensational first half but it just got better. The Munster that embarked on their Heineken Cup odyssey [1999 to 2008] knew all about winning the mental battle. Beating up the opposition and letting them hear about it all the while.

The bonus point try was the perfect example of this. Phase after phase. Rucks, carries around he corner. Calling for scrums to be set and re-set before the penalty try was awarded. Remorseless; no pity.

Following a quite breath-taking 38-17 victory, there was one question that had to be asked – Can Munster keep this up? CJ Stander told us:

“I think that’s what Rassie [Erasmus] said during the week – that we need to play the way Axel wants us to play.

“I think Axel really got frustrated with us because he taught us everything he wanted and we didn’t really go out there and enjoy ourselves and play the way he wanted us to play.”

“I think it’s only the start now of what we can do,” he added. “We’re our own team now and he’s always going to be in our minds and the back of our hearts. I think we have to kick on from here now.

“Today, there was no excuses and I think that’s the thing we need to push on for the next year, especially.”

Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland and Tommy O'Donnell celebrate winning a penalty try 22/10/2016

Ulster are up next, in Belfast. Les Kiss’ side paid wonderful tribute to Foley during their narrow win over Exeter Chiefs but they will be in no mood for charity when the two sides meet at Kingspan Stadium.

Rassie Erasmus is convinced the Munster players, emotionally drained as they must be, will be able to give Ulster a right rattle. He said:

“The way Munster people, and Irish people, do things is very emotional and very personal. I wasn’t sure on how that would impact on everybody but I saw how the boys handled it and how we could put on a performance purely for Axel. That’s what the performance was all about.

“We didn’t talk about winning for Axel because if you don’t win, what will you do then? But we can play the way Axel wanted us to play and the way he coached.

“We didn’t come through in the last few weeks but we knew exactly how he wanted us to play”

Munster know now. It is just a matter of going out and doing it all again.

“It’s unreal how personal and emotional the people are here and how they do things here,” said Erasmus. “It is tough to understand how one would want to be in another place than here after experiencing that.”

Erasmus has got a taste for the sort of sheer, unrelenting passion of the Munster support. The most important development is that so many of Munster’s players have got a taste too.

Let’s hope they are hungry for more.

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