European Round Up

Leinster, Connacht and Ulster all advanced this weekend in the last 16 of The Champions Cup and in the case of both Connacht and Ulster in the Challenge Cup.  Munster exited after a ten point loss 24-14 at the hands of Northampton Saints. For three of the Irish provinces they will prepare for last 8 ties in Europe, For Munster it is a case of injury and illness happening at the wrong time of yet another season.

That of course will form part of the conversation over the next 2 weeks for Munster who will now have extra time to prepare for two URC games in late April in South Africa. It is another last 16 exit for Munster since the round came into existence a few seasons ago. Graham Rowntree and his coaches have to now try and pick up a deflated squad for the last few weeks of the season.

 The futures of Antoine Frisch and Peter O Mahony will also need to be sorted and decisions communicated to the fans, add to that the talk surrounding both Mike Haley and Simon Zebo. Munster are in a state of flux like Ulster and will need to tie up certain questions and deals either way while trying to keep the URC campaign on an even keel.

A tough few weeks ahead for the men in red after another defeat in Europe. Only scrapping in back in January probably didn’t help the cause but like to lotto if you’re not in you can’t win !! A lack of experienced players and power killed Munster yesterday seeing Stephen Archer being asked to go the full 80 when Northampton were able to switch over to a fresh set of three new front row players certainly didn’t help the cause.

Munster have to be questioned why they let Keynan Knox take up another playing opportunity with Roman Salanoa on the long term injury list leaving Mark Donnelly and Ronan Fox who is in the academy to back up the two other senior tightheads in the squad currently.

At loosehead the same can be said with James Cronin being let go to play in France and now playing weekly with Leicester Tigers. Some of those decisions will need to be rightly questioned because Munster are again looking in from the outside in Europe.

Injuries to key men in the front row and second row saw RG Syman, Jean Kleyn, Edwin Edogbo ruled out and in the front row, injury and suspension saw Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan and Oli Jager ruled out.

No team can lose 6 players like that and not be affected, they will now need to focus fully on the final weeks of the URC to see can they defend the crown won in dramatic fashion last May.

For Leinster, Ulster and Connacht it is full steam ahead for games vs La Rochelle in Dublin for Leinster with La Rochelle is Cork for the next few days. Connacht will face Benetton in Italy and Ulster are on the road to face Clermont Auvergne.

I mentioned last week, I felt all 4 teams might sneak wins, my head said in all honesty that Leinster might be the only ones with a W in the bag by Sunday but both Ulster and Connacht can now look to European quarter finals admittedly on the road but with a bit of luck we might see more than one Irish team into the last 4 in Europe and who knows what might happen then…..

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