1. What Happens When An Opponent Matches Munster Up Front?
Throughout their pool campaign, Munster have been able to wrestle opponents into submission using their forward pack. Racing however had the ability to frustrate Munster for long periods.
Although Simon Zebo crossed for Munster’s opening try as the first half came to a conclusion, it took a long time in coming as the Reds battered the Racing line for the better part of ten minutes.
More worrying was Zebo’s eagerness to go it alone when his team-mates had realigned to create an overlap on his outside. Stronger sides will punish Munster and Zebo for doing so.
Indeed, Munster will have to evolve their game plan if they are to trouble the likes of Saracens, Leinster and Clermont.
Saying that, it is only Rassie Eramus’ first season in charge, and he has only put in place the foundations for an assault on Europe.
2. Andrew Conway
Last season Andrew Conway was shoe-horned into fullback due to the early retirement of Felix Jones. The move into the 15 jersey never really suited Conway, as he struggled to impose himself.
However, now that Simon Zebo has been handed the role on a full-time basis, Conway is free to resume his career on the wing.
Although he faces competition from the likes of Keith Earls, Darren Sweetnam and Ronan O’Mahony, after two brilliant performances against the Glasgow Warriors and Racing 92, he now has the opportunity to solidify his place in Munster’s team during the Six Nations.
Aggressive in defence, brilliant chasing Conor Murray’s box kicks and possessing a blistering turn of pace, Conway could yet become the player many expected him to be when he left Leinster.
3. Rory Scannell
Although Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose maybe Ireland’s first choice centre pairing, it’s difficult to know who will provide cover for the Leinster duo on the bench.
At the moment it looks to be a shootout between Stuart McCloskey and Rory Scannell, two players who bring very different attributes to the game.
While McCloskey brings power, Scannell has guile and the awareness to spot the space behind a winger, as he demonstrated with aplomb against Racing.
A lot will depend on what kind of option Joe Schmidt wants from the bench, but Scannell cannot be too far off after a series of powerful performances.
4. CJ Stander
Another game another man of the match award, CJ Stander would have been forgiven for feeling a sense of Déjà vu at the end of the game.
What makes Stander so much more dangerous this season is the fact that he’s looking to attack space and soft shoulders. In previous campaigns he was used as a battering ram around the fringes, but when deployed in the open field he can cause carnage.
Twice now against Racing he has created line breaks when taking the ball in the midfield, the first resulted in a wonderful try in Paris and he almost repeated the trick in Thomond Park.
5. Munster’s Scrum
When it became clear that Munster would not be able to sign a replacement for BJ Botha, anxiety set in among supporters who were troubled at the prospect of watching either John Ryan or Stephen Archer start at tighthead.
However, not only has Ryan held his own at scrum time, but he has gone after opponents in the set piece alongside his colleagues in the front row.
Ryan and company would have been rewarded for their efforts in the scrum had the referee allowed Stander capitalise on Munster’s dominance in the first half, but it was not to be.
Let’s not forget that this was a Racing front row that included Eddy Ben Arous and Camille Chat, two powerful players who will no doubt see action during the Six Nations.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
In this week’s edition of The Oval Office Podcast, we speak to the Pro12 Communications Director Adam Redmond, who outlines how the league will evolve in the coming seasons.