Belfast Telegraph

McCall will bring back big names for must-win return against Munster

Munster 10 Saracens 3

Job done: Munster’s Chris Farrell and Mike Haley after their rain-swept victory against Saracens at Thomond Park
Job done: Munster’s Chris Farrell and Mike Haley after their rain-swept victory against Saracens at Thomond Park
Mark McCall

By Brendan Fanning

It doesn't automatically follow that being paid to play should make you better able to withstand driving wind and rain to handle a ball.

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So, if you were at Thomond Park on Saturday night you will have felt for Munster and Saracens when the storm arrived late in the first half. It was horrible.

Barnet on Saturday, hopefully, will be more clement, but a stronger Saracens selection will be hell bent, despite their third place in Pool 4, to take something from this campaign which has been clouded by their position on rugby's bold step.

So the marquee names who were spared the trip to Limerick, Ulster star Mark McCall confirmed, will feature.

"We need to win next week. We do know that Munster have got a tough game against Racing in round five so there's definitely hope, but next week is huge for us and we've got to win."

Given how competitive they were when short-staffed, you'd expect an upswing.

Not unlike their performance against Racing in Paris, when they had even fewer heavyweights on duty than in Limerick, Saracens were often very good. Having played into the teeth of the wind in the first half they turned over 3-10.

"Very pleased with a lot of the things," McCall added. "The effort, the togetherness that we showed, the ability to bounce back from a number of things that went wrong was really good.

"(There's a) Bit of frustration because having got ourselves into a situation where we had the elements and only a seven-point deficit, it's probably something we'll look back on and be frustrated that we couldn't have done better in the second half."

Given the way Sarries are set up, with a very efficient kick-chase game, things looked a bit thin for Munster at that stage.

In search of safety the home team had gone to the front of the lineout repeatedly, but still managed to use the ball fairly well.

For Peter O'Mahony's try - the only one of the game - they brought Saracens from one side to the other and then Conor Murray combined perfectly with O'Mahony to put the captain over.

Given they had an earlier try by Rory Scannell ruled out for a forward pass, it was especially welcome.

At the weekend, though, Munster can expect their lineout to be under more pressure with Jamie George and George Kruis back on deck.

"Yeah, certainly," O"Mahony said. "I've worked with Kruis and Jamie and you'd imagine a lot of these guys would be coming back next week so we'll have to go back and have a look. We'll both change things, obviously.

"It's going to be more difficult again, trying to second-guess and third-guess what guys are thinking and that makes it even more difficult, but that's the beauty of these back-to-back games, trying to play the little chess games and try to figure each other out."

It remains to be seen if Arno Botha gets lucky and draws a sending-off-sufficient result from his disciplinary hearing this week. In a bizarre finish, JJ Hanrahan thought he had made the game safe when getting the ball off the field and time up.

Then referee Romain Poite went back to look at Botha's forearm lead, carrying off the back of a scrum, which clipped Nick Tomkins in the head. Game on again. To their credit, Munster stole the lineout after Saracens had gone for the corner.

Surrendering two of their four points would have been a disaster for the home team. But they need something on their travels if they are to bank a few bob from a home quarter-final.

Belfast Telegraph


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