Finn Russell New ground has been broken in Larkham’s Munster revolution

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Munster  21 Racing 21

Fittingly for their first draw in 79 home games which have liberally garnished the Champions Cup, this was new territory for Munster in many ways.

Revamped attacking games normally take time to evolve, all the more so when a raft of front-liners are added to the mix over two months into the competitive season, but Munster made it clear here that they are intent on embracing the Stephen Larkham-inspired revolution without delay.  

In many respects this was the first real sighting of New Munster – certainly in front of the faithful – as they engaged an expansive and creative Racing 92 with like-minded width and wit.

JJ Hanrahan and Mike Haley are like players reborn. Hanrahan has been encouraged to take the ball to the line and use his running threat, while likewise Haley has been given licence to carry and counter.

Hanrahan should not beat himself up too much for hooking the drop goal to win the match after his skip-two floated pass to Andrew Conway and touchline conversion drew the sides level.

With Finn Russell and Simon Zebo very much cut from the same cloth, it reflects the width that both teams employed that all four wingers scored tries. 

Munster kicked less out of hand (24-30), passed more (178-123), had marginally fewer clean breaks (10-12), but beat more defenders (30-23) and even made more offloads (10-8).

High-wire rugby

It was often high-risk, high-wire rugby. Munster pushed the pass or the offload in spite of Racing’s line speed forever carrying the threat of an intercept.

As expected Donnacha Ryan and Racing also went after the Munster lineout, and not only did Munster lose three of their 10 throws, but of those three were thrown flat to the front like something from an imbalanced under-12s game. No less than the lineouts and scrums, the breakdown was a serious battle.  

Yet Larkham’s influence has been profound. There have already been signs of much improved use of the b

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