If you’re down your entire first choice back three in Howlett/Earls/Jones – one of whom is a Hall of Fame calibre player, one of whom is a confirmed international try-scorer, and the other of whom is a great broken field runner – and you don’t have particularly good centers, what’s the point in playing to your weaknesses?
Munster have got two halfbacks with good kicking games in Murray and ROG, and they’ve got a decent selection of forwards – although they do lack a first-rate tackle breaker in the absence of David Wallace. The Scarlets’ most dangerous players are all in their back line. The solution? Try and keep possession for as much of the game as possible, keep it up in the pack and try and grind out the win.
Unfortunately the line-out throwing of Varley isn’t as good as it should be – otherwise they’d be in a much better position with a very strong line out and a good, consistent scrum. Were The Mole selecting a Munster team to play the Scarlets, it’d be:
du Preez; Varley; Botha; O’Callaghan; O’Connell; Ryan; O’Mahony; Coughlan; Murray; O’Gara; Zebo; Mafi [if available]; Chambers; Murphy; Hurley
Fogarty; Horan; Hayes/Archer [wouldn’t make much of a difference, you’d try and keep Botha on for 80 mins]; Leamy; Ronan; O’Leary; Keatley; Barnes
Leamy is better off the bench than as a starter; keeping the game closer to the pack takes away a little of the need for a linking openside like Ronan; Ryan can do a decent job at blindside and adds another line out option [and means you can change the shape of the pack off the subs bench] and the three-quarters are the biggest guys available to be used as battering rams to get the pack going forward on to ball.
Obviously there’s f*ck-all invention in the back line, but the available options are very limited. The Mole would generally try and play a narrow game which is broken up by a lot of territorial kicking from ROG. Lots of competition on their line out ball with four jumpers [O’Connell, Ryan, O’Mahony and O’Callaghan], and a lot of size and mauling prowess in the pack. Look to use a good amount of pick and go from the rucks, and try to integrate a good few moves to get your blindside wingers in close to the ruck. And that’s it.