MUNSTER coach Anthony Foley has identified the Fijian duo of Niko Matawalu and Leone Nakarawa as key parts of Glasgow’s dangerous offloading game ahead of Saturday evening’s Guinness Pro12 final in Belfast.
The two-time European champions are going for their fourth title in this competition but are up against a side who beat them in last season’s semi-final and finished the regular season at the top of the standings.
Gregor Townsend’s side have earned the Irish province’s respect and Foley, the former international back-rower, is expecting a very challenging test at the Kingspan Stadium.
Asked how Glasgow could be beaten the 41-year-old said: “The smart answer is you score more points, but how do you do that? You have to understand that they won’t kick you the ball like every other team. They’re the lowest kicking team in the competition. They’re the highest offloading team.
“They will go from anywhere, they have the most tries in the competition scored from their own half so we need to be on alert in every aspect of the game.
“They have Matawalu, he’ll go from anywhere. The second row [Nakarawa] will try it from everywhere. [Stuart] Hogg will go from everywhere. It’s well marshalled by [stand-off Finn] Russell and [Peter] Horne in the centre, so we’ve a lot to look at.”
Glasgow beat Munster 20-18 at Scotstoun before Christmas and Foley reflected: “When they came back at us over there in the second half they came back at us through [Josh] Strauss and [Richie] Gray and [Al] Kellock, big ball carriers. They have good back rowers in [Adam] Ashe. These guys will live in our breakdown, they will get their feet in, they will cause us hassle.
“How we manage that is we try and impose our pace of the game on top of them, You need to do that through a quality set-piece, good tactical kicking game, try and upset their set-piece and try and take them on physically.
“Matawalu is a nightmare for the boys. I don’t think his team-mates know what he is going to do. That is the beauty of him at times.
“Nakarawa the second row, he’s the same. He’s the highest offloading player in the competition. He just gets the ball away ridiculous. It’s about understanding that and trying to control that.”
Munster are nursing a few bumps and bruises from their 21-18 semi-final win over Ospreys at the weekend, with skipper Peter O’Mahony expected to be fine for the final.
More worrying is scrum-half Conor Murray and wing Simon Zebo, who both sat out training yesterday. Zebo is following return to play protocols after sustaining concussion during the second half of the semi-final, while Murray will meet with a specialist today to assess a knee injury sustained after 16 minutes on Saturday, and it would appear the odds are against him.
Saturday may be Munster talisman Paul O’Connell’s last game for the province before a move to Toulon, but Foley insists that is not an issue at the forefront of their minds.
“It wasn’t spoken about last week, it hasn’t been mentioned this week,” said the coach. “I think everyone’s intelligent enough to understand the situation, to go about doing their job. If we all do our jobs to the best of our ability, we’ll get the outcome we deserve.
“If we start thinking about different things and getting distracted by it, getting emotional… then that’s a negative. We want to stay on top of it and be positive.”