Rowntree looking for Munster to gain momentum for South Africa trip

After last week’s respite, Munster begin a run of five successive URC games leading into their Champions Cup last 16 two-legged tie against Exeter. The run starts with the Dragons at Thomond Park this Saturday evening (kick-off 5.15pm) before flying to South Africa the following night for their rearranged games on the high veldt against the Bulls and the Lions.

Having returned to winning ways and the top four in the table with their home win over Edinburgh last Friday week after their loss in Glasgow, forwards coach Graham Rowntree underlined the importance of beating the Dragons.

“Oh God yeah, it’s of massive importance. We need maximum points against Dragons who, in my mind, are a difficult team. I’ve got a lot of respect for their coaches.

“So our focus is very much on Saturday, getting maximum points from this game. We just have to.”

“I’ve no doubt knowing them, they’ll have looked at where our last two opponents made life difficult for us and they will look to do exactly the same to us. That’s the nature of them.

“So we’re prepared for that, we’ve had a good look at them over the last couple of days and we trained well this morning in the sun, which was nice, but we’re ready for Saturday night, we’ll need everything from this game.”

Reflecting on the win over Edinburgh, Rowntree said: “It was a good game, they didn’t let us down. I remember playing against Edinburgh in my first season here with Cockers [Richard Cockerill], home and away, in Cork. They were challenging. I’m delighted with the points we got from that game because they’re flying this season. They’ve expanded their game under Mike Blair. In terms of physicality and the breakdown, they were good so we’re delighted to take what we got from that.”

The return of their Springboks players has notably made the South African franchises more competitive since Munster’s initial round six and seven games against the Bulls and Lions were postponed in late November and early December, splintering their squad into three separate bubbles and causing disruption before their resourceful European win away to Wasps. Rowntree is looking forward to their rearranged trip.

“I am yeah, as we were looking forward to the last trip, we’re looking forward to playing those teams. They’ve expanded the competition and I think it’s exciting, these South African teams, they bring a different dimension, particularly in my area.

“So we’re looking forward to it and we’ve known we’re going for a while now, we’ll prepare for that on Sunday when we fly out. We’ll get Saturday night out of the way first.”

Munster are likely to be strengthened by the return of Craig Casey and Gavin Coombes, who have been recently by Ireland, and Rowntree also welcomed Munster’s recent signing of Irish qualified 21-year-old hooker Chris Moore on a one-year deal from Exeter University .

“They play BUCS league at the moment. We’ve been looking at him for a while; Irish-qualified player, big man, very good basics and quite dynamic and he’ll be a great addition to our hooker roster.

“We’ve got guys ticking all those boxes and he’ll be just good competition. He’s a good lad, he’ll be great for the group and I’m really excited to see how he develops in our environment.”

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