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Munster vs Glasgow - three key areas that will decide the BKT URC semifinal

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Friday Jun 14, 2024

Arguably, the ‘snarkiest’ rivalry in the BKT URC, Munster Rugby vs Glasgow Warriors, has become must-see TV over the past decade.

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Familiar foes at this stage, the duo have clashed in some of the most entertaining and tense fixtures in club games.

Whether it was their Champions Cup clash following the tragic passing of Munster head coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley in 2016 or last season’s drubbing inflicted by the Warriors on the Irish giants at Thomond Park, this clash always delivers unrivalled drama.

Meeting in the quarterfinal stages last season, Munster would complete an impressive victory over an ill-disciplined Warriors side at Scotstoun in what was a confidence-boosting victory for Graham Rowntree’s men.

Of course, Munster would go on to win the title, whilst the Warriors would have to lick their wounds and plan for the next season.

In the 2023/24 season, it currently stands at 1 – 0 to Munster, who downed the Warriors in Cork back in December.

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Having witnessed first-hand what a win on the road can do for one’s title hopes, the Warriors will travel to Limerick looking to replicate the Munster blueprint of last season.

Summing up the bite heading into this clash, Rowntree said, “You know, and they were already talking about what we did in the quarterfinal last year and paying us back and what have you, and the way and I thought it was very impressive, the way they stuck in that game last week. I’m expecting the full package from them this week.” 

With the stage set for another tense instalment of this Celtic rivalry, here are three key areas that will play a key role in deciding the outcome of this semi-final.

Munster’s Bench

Hit with a truly historic number of injuries earlier this season, it appeared as though the reigning champions’ crusade towards another title was done and dusted before the calendar year had turned. Outside of losing out to Gallagher Premiership Champions Northampton Saints in the Investec Champions Cup, Munster have been unstoppable in 2024. Claiming 44 out of 45 available log points, there is no doubt that the men in red have been the form team of the URC. The key to this transformation has been a return to play by several key contributors, as well as a subtle but crucial shift in tactics. Employing a South African-style approach to their substitutions, Munster has often started their best players on the bench. This has then allowed them to wear down their opponents’ starters before the bench lands the knockout blow. Naming their team today, this is once again the approach Rowntree and his coaching staff have taken with Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan Oli Jager, RG Snyman, Gavin Coombes, Conor Murray, Sean O’Brien and Alex Kendellen on the bench. Whilst the strategy carries risk should Munster fall behind significantly, it has proven to be highly effective to date.

Huwipulotu vs Nank and Frisch

Excuse our acronym here but such is the mind meld on the pitch between Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones that the two come as a package these days. The Scottish internationals are arguably the best Glasgow midfield pairing of the past decade, albeit Stafford McDowell may beg to differ. Combining Tuipulotu’s soft touches both from hand and the boot with his hard running style creates the perfect foil for the clever running angles and pace of Jones. Facing this duo is a pairing that isn’t too bad in Alex Nankivell and Antoine Frisch. Offering a similar level of complementary skills to one another, the Munster duo are more direct than their Glasgow counterparts. In Nankivell, Munster has found a hard-running centre that they previously hoped Malakai Fekitoa and, prior to him, Damian De Allende would have been for the province. The former Chief is a test quality player who, courtesy of the current All Blacks selection policy, sees his full focus being on Munster. Doing all of the fundamentals to an exceptional level, Nankivell is an uber-intelligent player who will relish the clash with the physical yet brilliant Tuipulotu. France-bound Frisch, on the other hand, will likely be a French international in three weeks’ time, but in the here and now, he has a big job ahead of him to contain Jones. A silky-smooth operator, Frisch combines guile with an underrated level of physicality. Whilst Jones holds the edge in pace, Frisch is the better ball player of the two and will be a key man for his side. This head-to-head alone will be worth tuning in for.

Discipline

As touched on above, there is no love lost in this rivalry and with tempers certain to boil over, the team that holds their discipline will have a sizeable advantage. In last year’s quarterfinal, the Warriors went off the boil with a red card and a yellow card. Whilst this would be extraordinary for most fixtures, it is very much par for the course when these two sides meet. Both sides will be hyper-aware of this and could well be looking to lure the other into this scenario.

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