As the Rabo Direct PRO12 moves into the weeks where it is missing its international stars due to the Autumn Internationals, the Cardiff Blues might very well be worried how they are going to cope without the likes of Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny who have been putting in such good performances.
Their away game against Leinster, the first half especially, shows that they have massive defensive frailties in their side that don’t look like being fixed overnight. The Blues have shown in glimpses this season how committed they can be defensively as a team, yet they are yet to produce that with any consistency. If they are to have any chance against a well drilled Muntser team, their defence must improve.
Munster have been working their way steadily up the table and now sit just outside the play-off spots. Without putting in any standout displays but since their stuttering performance against the Ospreys they have been improving, despite suffering a loss against big rivals Leinster. They will hope to return from this visit to Wales with a better outcome.
The visiting side are sending out a relatively strong team to face the Blues. Their backline especially looks dangerous and packed full of talent with Jones, Howlett and Laulala, who will be facing his old team mates for the first time.
In the pack, they are missing their big names, yet they have a new crop of players coming through that will be hoping to target the Blues’ forwards and impress the coaching team while they have a chance to make an impression on the shirt.
The Blues again have an exciting backline despite missing their internationals, with the talented Fish and Tovey. Their forwards, whilst being settled, are due a big improvement particularly defensively. Captain Pretorius will need to lead from the front and the 2nd row paring of Downs and Reed will need to put in a big shift in the absence of Davies.
If the Blues can bring the defensive form they showed in the Heineken Cup rounds then this should be a very close and fiercely contested match. If they turn out another performance similar to last week against Leinster then the Munster backs are more than capable of really punishing them.
Munster will pose a stern challenge and with their hard working ethos and clinical efficiency they could well grind down the Blues pack which will give them the opportunity to release their backline.
Either way, this is a game the Blues will be desperate to win, or at the very least put in a much more committed display that will give their home fans something to cheer. Munster will be looking to add more points to their Pro12 charge and it will take an almighty turnaround from the Blues performance wise to stop them.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Tom Williams, Gavin Evans, Dafydd Hewitt, Tom James; Jason Tovey, Lewis Jones; Andries Pretorius (c) , Josh Navidi, Robin Copeland; James Down, Lou Reed; Taufa’ao Filise Rhys Williams Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Sam Hobbs, Ryan Harford, Macauley Cook, Luke Hamilton, Rob Lewis Ceri Sweeney, Owen Williams
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett capt, C Laulala, I Keatley, L O’Dea; R O’Gara, D Williams; M Horan, M Sherry, S Archer; D Foley, B Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, T O’Donnell. Replacements: D Varley, J Ryan, W du Preez, I Nagle, P Butler, P Stringer, D Barnes, J Murphy.