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Emotional win has given us belief, says Erasmus

By David Kelly

It's difficult to know how Munster must feel now, so soon after last week's tumultuous outpouring of poise, passion and pride in the victory over Glasgow at Thomond Park.

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One thing is certain: it will be difficult to reach the same soaring heights of the performance achieved in Limerick, notwithstanding the five necessary changes made to the side by Rassie Erasmus due to IRFU diktat.

And the Director of Rugby was keen to link his men's ongoing emotional response to the fact that his side still, for all that has happened since Anthony Foley's untimely passing, remain a work in progress.

"It's certainly not as difficult as it is for Olive and the kids and the family," he said. "How tough it was for us is really irrelevant. It's for us to be able to go and perform.

"I always knew this team had it in them to create this kind of result against Glasgow but with the situation and occasion we were in, I wasn't sure that was the week. With the quality of the opposition, it was a bit of a surprise to me.

"I think as we move on, different management members, players and coaches will handle it differently. For some, the reality comes back in different stages, in the changing room, in the coach's meeting room.

"We have to remember where the team is coming from last year and the results. The team is growing into something and last week could have helped us or given us a reality check as to where we are.

"There are two competitions going on at the same time and we're back into the PRO12 now and playing the long-time table leaders away from home with international players out. Last week should give us the confidence to know that even if we don't perform like that every week, we can perform like that.

"The pressure you put on yourself to perform like that every week is something every player and every management member will handle differently. It's how we play, that is where we should put pressure on ourselves."

Squad selection may make Ireland fans sit up and take notice but parochial supporters may remain unnerved as to their own side's prospects.

Some Irish stars are available; Paddy Jackson, Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall start despite eight changes for Ulster, while Peter O'Mahony, John Ryan, Billy Holland and Donnacha Ryan play in a Munster side featuring five alterations.

Munster's pack, particularly their back three, looks stronger, which it may have to be given Ulster's array of talent in the three-quarters, but the absence of a first-choice pairing at half-back mitigates against that advantage.

With Stuart Olding set to miss Ulster's next two matches because of a hip injury, Darren Cave will partner Marshall at centre.

Forwards Wiehahn Herbst and Dan Tuohy will both make their first appearances of the season after long-term injuries.

Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley replace Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal at half-back for Munster.

Out wide, Andrew Conway and Ronan O'Mahony take over from Simon Zebo and the suspended Keith Earls.

The only change to Munster's pack from the Glasgow game sees Jack O'Donoghue stepping in for CJ Stander.

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss, whose side's blemish-free opening to the season was undone at Connacht in round six, said: "We haven't beaten them in four games. I didn't expect anything less than what they produced against Glasgow.

"We need to control our emotion, there has only been seven points between the sides in those last four games so we know it will be tight."

Belfast Telegraph


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