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In the 76th minute of Munster’s 22-16 win over Ulster on Saturday night, Conor Murray latched over the ball to stymie an Ulster attack from deep. Immovable in earning his side a penalty, there would have been few more encouraging sights for the Munster faithful. Nothing wrong with his neck there.
As we know from the last three World Cup seasons, this upcoming European campaign can go one of two extreme ways. Four years ago, no Irish team reached the knockout stages for the first time since 1997-98, with Leinster winning only one of six pool games. Yet in the fallout of the 2007 World Cup, Munster went on to reclaim the Heineken Cup, as Leinster did in the 2011-12 season.
These are early days in Irish rugby’s redemption story, and Murray’s turnover penalty was only a small cameo in the greater scheme of things, but maybe it also typified promising signs that the healing process has begun.
Although losing six from six in their first foray last season, Lyon are again pacesetters in the Top 14
One of the more encouraging aspects of Ireland’s World Cup campaign was that whatever about their mental state or their accuracy in execution, physically they looked in good nick. They really did. Whether carrying a heavy load in Japan, such as Murray or the indefatigable CJ Stander, or frustrated with their lack of game time, ie Andrew Conway and Rhys Ruddock, plenty of those on the Japanese expedition as well as those overlooked will feel they have something to prove and should be in the condition to do so.
No less than the old days when they kick-started the season at the end of August, or coming in the wake of a World Cup, with new or revived combinations, last weekend’s interpros were typically disjointed affairs.
The exception was Lei
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