Pro12: Complete Contrasts

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Is it any coincidence that the Ospreys’ poor start to the season coincides with the fact they’ve lost 11 players to the Rugby World Cup and a handful to injury?

Granted having to play both Ulster and Munster in the opening two weeks of the season isn’t an easy prospect, but you’d still back a team who finished in the top four last season to win their home matches and put up something of a fight away.

They did neither.

Pro12: Complete Contrasts

Friday night’s 20-9 defeat at the hands of Edinburgh means the Welsh region languish in the nether regions of the PRO12 after three rounds – a lowly eleventh place with just a point to their name.

Again, we have to bear in mind they started with two games against top four rivals and then came up against an in-form Edinburgh side, but things look bleak in Swansea.

They haven’t looked like the same team that nearly made the PRO12 Final only five months ago and they have been found lacking in several areas with many of their best players away, especially in the backs.

Rhys Webb’s injury picked up on international duty has been given a May return date, which is probably enough to rule out any further participation this season. He is a huge loss, one they will struggle to replace.

They are nowhere near out of the play-off race yet, let’s not get that far ahead of ourselves. But it’s never good to sit nine points out of the top four after just three games.

And the stats aren’t that great either. Possibly the most awkward one is that the Ospreys haven’t yet crossed the whitewash for a five-pointer – the only side in the PRO12 not to do so.

They don’t have much time to turn it around either. An awkward trip to Treviso won’t be a guaranteed four points, before games against Connacht at home and Glasgow away.

If there hasn’t been already (and I suspect there has been), there needs to be a meeting between the Ospreys’ coaching staff to determine what needs to be changed. Otherwise they’ll be in serious difficulties the more the season progresses.

At the other end of the table, Munster are doing a great job at winning the tight games, as highlighted by their 3-from-3 record despite having a points difference of just 9.

And yet they can have no complaints how their season has started. They’ve escaped from the Liberty Stadium with a backs to the wall win, as well as disposing of Glasgow at Thomond Park.

It’s enough to give Munster fans a real sense of optimism that this could be a season where they go one better than last time, and based on how their campaign is building momentum, why wouldn’t they be positive?

New lock Mark Chisholm has filled a large Paul O’Connell shaped hole, while Tyler Bleyendaal and Francis Saili have added an extra edge to their back line to go with the usual Munster dominance up front.

Cardiff at home should yield another win before they take on two tricky opponents in the Scarlets and Ulster as Axel Foley’s men look to establish a large lead in the PRO12 while the World Cup is on.

Ospreys and Munster – two contrasting starts to the season, and two completely different ways to go forward to the rest of the season.

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