FORMER Munster and Ireland captain Keith Wood has said it would be a “crisis” if Munster failed to make the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the second year running.
Munster begin their European campaign at home to high-flying English side Northampton in Thomond Park on Saturday and Wood reckons that the management need to gamble to a certain extent with their team selection.
In a wide-ranging analysis piece on Newstalk radio on Saturday, Wood also lamented the loss of their veteran back-row players, the injury to Keith Earls and urged the Munster players to carry the ball from deeper.
“There is big pressure on Munster to perform,” said Wood. “They’re in an incredibly tough pool if there were back to back seasons where they didn’t get out of the pool, that would be a pretty big crisis. I don’t think they’re gambling but they need to make big calls all the time.”
Wood acknowledged that Munster are in a transition period in relation to their backrow with Alan Quinlan retired and David Wallace injured but said that now is the time for the likes of Peter O’Mahony to step up.
“They looked a little bit more aggressive when O’Mahony came on. They’re playing without some of their key guys who have been at the cornerstone of all their backrow play - Alan Quinlan, David Wallace gone - so there is a transition now and they have to find the balance. I would say that the balance isn’t right but they are working their way through it.
“It’s incredibly difficult for them and that’s why I think O’Mahony is one of the key elements for them. He has this verve, he has the energy. He’s a leader. He’s considered a leader within the Munster team even though he’s very new. He has to take that role on a little bit more now.
“They probably have to take a gamble - or what we would perceive as a gamble from the outside - but I think they will probably go with O’Mahony. I think he will be very close to it.”
Munster name their squad for Saturday’s game at lunchtime today but the starting team won’t be announced until Saturday.
- For more on what Keith Wood has to say on Munster, see the Wednesday edition of the Limerick Leader