Munster bolstered by wealth of top options
FROM famine to feast, you can’t move in Munster these days without falling over an outhalf. Which is a lot better than having an outhalf falling over you. If pulling the game out of the fire against Glasgow last week was very good news for them, then getting Tyler Bleyendaal back on the field this week was much more of the same. Running him at 12 outside debutant Bill Johnson — like Bleyendaal, a man whose had more than his fair share of injuries — with Ian Keatley on the bench, gives Munster a heap of playmaking options today, including last week’s hero Rory Scannell. Factor in Joey Carbery and JJ Hanrahan, both elsewhere today, and you see how deep Munster’s stocks are now in this area.
Not quite the same story in Leinster. The departure of Carbery won’t be really felt until something goes wrong with either Johnny Sexton or Ross Byrne, or both. Today, for example, in Port Elizabeth, they have Noel Reid starting at 10 against the Kings.
While they have got good value out of him over eight seasons his future as a 10 isn’t scheduled to feature on big days out. Ciarán Frawley, who is on the bench, is short on experience but Leinster expect him to make an impact in this position.
The bonus-point win in Treviso was a good launch pad for Leinster, though by the end of their South African sojourn they will have had enough travel to do them for a while. Like the Cheetahs the Kings are propping up their conference — each with one win in this campaign — and having taken a lump out of Glasgow in September they’ll have a go at repeating the trick against the holders.
Munster’s task will be less straightforward. The starting line-up for today is an illustration of the strength they can call on now, especially across the midfield. They’ll need it against a Cheetahs side that have just one competition to focus on and a first win, last weekend against Cardiff, has given them confidence. Leinster (v Kings): D Kearney; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, C O’Brien, J Tomane; N Reid, J Gibson-Park; E Byrne, J Tracey, M Bent, R Molony, S Fardy (capt), J Murphy, M Deegan, D Leavy. Replacements: B Byrne, P Dooley, V Abdaladze, M Kearney, C Doris, H O’Sullivan, C Frawley, T Daly.
Munster (v Cheetahs): M Haley; S Daly, S Arnold, T Bleyendaal (capt), A Wootton; B Johnson, A Mathewson; J Cronin, K O’Byrne, S Archer, J Kleyn, D O’Shea, F Wycherley, A Botha, C Cloete. Replacements: M Sherry, J Loughman, J Ryan, S O’Connor, G Coombes, D Williams, I Keatley, R Scannell.