Win or bust for Munster, and the three players that can help them knock off Northampton 3 months ago

Win or bust for Munster, and the three players that can help them knock off Northampton

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Only the second game in, for Munster, and they know victory is crucial to get back on track.


Munster travel to Northampton, this weekend, in a game that is already verging on must-win for both teams. You can stream the Champions Cup game with a NOW Sports Extra Membership, with kick-off at 1 pm on Sunday.

Such is the condensed nature of the Champions Cup that opening round defeats to Toulouse and La Rochelle, respectively, have put Munster and Northampton Saints up against it.

Munster at least secured a losing bonus point, at Thomond Park. Saints were brutalised by the reigning champions, in France, and are way behind the eight-ball when it comes to points difference.

Last season's competition saw four sides advance to the Last 16 with one win and one loss from their four matches, while Connacht joined them there after winning once and losing three games, courtesy of six bonus points picked up along the way.


Saints have 0 points and a wretched points difference [-34] after their loss to Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle. The Premiership side must avoid a repeat of O'Gara's 2011 drop goal heroics, in Munster red, if they are to stay alive in this competition.

As for Graham Rowntree's men, they at least got a losing bonus point at home but they will have to travel to Toulouse in January, and winning away at Stade Ernest Wallon is no mean feat. So far this season, at home, Toulouse have thrashed Toulon, Racing, Clermont and Perpignan, while seeing off La Rochelle in a tighter affair.

Munster Northampton Jack O'Donoghue of Munster is tackled by Michael Ala'Alatoa of Leinster. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Three key Munster players

If Munster are to stay in the hunt until then, they must see off a Northampton side that have the likes of Lewis Ludlam, Tommy Freeman and George Furbank on their books, and at a festive and febrile Franklin's Garden.

Munster are in better shape, in terms of injuries and suspensions, than they were earlier this season. Graham Rowntree should be able to throw some of his brightest and best out, to try get the job done. Here are our three key Munster players, if they want to stop Saints.

Tadhg Beirne


It goes without saying that Tadhg Beirne has gone from strength to über-strength, since he revived his career with a two-season spell at Scarlets. Before that, in 2016, the Kildare native looked to be heading out of professional rugby and back to college.

Scarlets came calling, gave him another crack at it and he has yet to look back since. Now into his fifth season with Munster, 36-times capped for Ireland and a British & Irish Lion, Beirne is pivotal to Munster's game-plan and hopes of winning. A lineout beacon, a willing carrier and a demon around the breakdown, Northampton will have his card heavily marked.

Gavin Coombes

Munster Northampton Munster players Gavin Coombes, left, and Craig Casey. (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile)

When this lad gets up a head of steam, good luck. Gavin Coombes had an injury from last season carry over into this one, but looks to be getting back to his devastating best.

Northampton will have the sleeves rolled up and will believe they must out-muscle Munster to get a home win. The Munster front five will be crucial in battling for parity, or even the slight edge, but it will be the back row war that could well decide this one. The West Cork native has three tries so far this season, and will relish his task against the English outfit.

Joey Carbery

Many across Munster, and Ireland, have started to press the Jack Crowley case, for the No.10 jersey. Rowntree, though, is sticking with Joey Carbery. He was rewarded by three solid outings in a row, and tries against Edinburgh and Toulouse.

It was interesting to note how Rowntree kept Carbery one, during that Toulouse loss, and inserted Crowley at inside centre. Has shown in the past that he can unlock defences with smart passes and kicks, especially if they are pressing up high.

Munster Northampton

Elsewhere with the NOW Sports Extra Membership, Leinster will be taking on Gloucester, on Friday night, with La Rochelle heading to Ulster on Saturday evening.

Stream Northampton Saints vs Munster exclusively on NOW with a NOW Sports Extra Membership, from €11.99.