Thursday 18 December 2014

Billy Keane: Munster must play gorilla rugby to avoid banana skin

Published 18/01/2014 | 02:30

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony speaking to the media
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony speaking to the media

I have never met anyone who has slipped on a banana skin. Why then do sports writers, coaches, players, politicians and the population in general warn of a 'potential banana skin'?

Ask all those around you this question. "Have any of you at any time slipped on a banana skin?" And when you get a "no" to that, ask these further questions. "Do you know anyone who has slipped on a banana skin? Or have you ever seen anyone slip on a banana skin?" Bet the answer is still no.

Here is the fourth and final question. Is Munster's last pool game in the Heineken Cup against Edinburgh tomorrow a potential icy pavement? We need more accuracy in the use of our cliches in what will be a game of two halves.

It makes sense, doesn't it, in that millions of people have slipped on icy pavements, and there is also a strong argument to suggest Edinburgh will make life very difficult indeed for Munster.

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The coaches will say, "yes it is an icy pavement". They have to. Just to keep the players motivated. But is this a real yes as opposed to a yes that's really a cautionary yes?

It looks like Munster will need a bonus point to get a home quarter -final draw, and even then we are dependent on other results.

We all know the home draw is worth a try start and more to Munster teams. The financial rewards are huge. The IRFU, who negotiate contracts, couldn't pick a worse time to beat down the players, in the middle of the Heineken Cup and coming up towards the Six Nations.

Are they trying to wreck the players' heads or what? Some day the whole story will come out. Here's one part: Jonathan Sexton would have stayed in Ireland for less money than Sean O'Brien.

Our guess is the soon-to-be-out-of-contract players are not being overly greedy. Players prefer to stay at home. We all know the books need to be balanced, but the IRFU need to restructure their financing of teams. There's plenty of money out there, if it's well begged.

Is there a 'them and us' mentality between players and administrators? There's surely no truth in the rumour the players' sandwiches are wrapped in a map of France. The structure of players being centrally contracted was well conceived by the IRFU and has worked well for Irish rugby -- up to now. There's great credit due for that, but reform is needed urgently.

We will go back to the field of play where finality and transparency are assured.

In the history of this great competition, we have never seen a final pool day that didn't have a shock or at least a fair share of drama. Some team is bound to slip up.

We will take you back to a wet night in the old Thomond. Leicester Tigers were in Limerick and Munster were already through to the next round. That was the night Munster lost their unbeaten record at Thomond Park.

Leo Cullen and Leicester played very well, but Munster were flat. Munster had an off day against Edinburgh in the very first game this season in Scotland. Edinburgh won well, and last week the Scots destroyed Perpignan, so our opponents are in form.

The key to beating Edinburgh is to keep the game tight in the early stages. Edinburgh, like the Scottish national team, thrive on fast, open play with lots of knock-ons, intercepts and confusion. It's guerrilla rugby. Munster need to play gorilla rugby.

There must be territorial chest-thumping and aggression. But keep the head and don't be giving away those soft Munster penalties by trying too hard, which is nearly as bad as not trying at all.

Munster are good at the breakdown but so too are Edinburgh. We must play 'Sweet Caroline' rugby. "Hands, touching hands/Reaching out, touching me, touching you." So there you have it -- King Kong meets Sweet Caroline and they live happily ever after.

The win must be secured first and foremost. Points should be put up on the board. If we get a lead, Edinburgh will have to force the game and that will suit Munster.

This has always been the Munster way. But here's the dilemma: we need tries, at least four.

The crowd must be up for it. The game will be played (12.45) while the milk man is still on his rounds.

Get up early. Do a few press-ups. On your own. Listen to 'Stand Up And Fight' on the stereo. Or better again don't go to bed at all. It's not easy to go crazy before lunch unless you've had a warm-up. Our body clocks are still in winter hibernation mode.

Munster need the back-up so don't come in to Thomond with two odd socks, a yawn as wide as a hippo's, a hangover, bed fluff in your belly button and eyes as baggy as a turkey's neck. I'm having an awful day with the metaphors. The message is, get up early and pray at your place of worship for another Thomond miracle.

It can be done. The young Munster lads watched the miracle games as kids. Now is their time. The hunger is there. Luck is needed too. You can only make miracles if you truly believe.

Irish Independent

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