Monday 24 July 2017

McGahan plays down arch-rivals' poor form

Munster' s head coach Tony McGahan
Munster' s head coach Tony McGahan

Martin Hanrahan

The rain fell heavily in Cork yesterday as Munster stepped up their preparations ahead of Saturday's clash against Leinster, but the press conference that followed was slightly arid as management attempted to downplay the hype that is quickly gathering momentum.

A more settled Munster side will probably go into the match as favourites, having won each of their four games to date, though there was no sign of any condescension on their behalf in view of Leinster's disastrous start to the season, which sees them 12 points and eight places behind their bitter rivals.

Asked if Munster were treating their opposition as wounded animals, McGahan was typically evasive in his reply. "No, not really," he said. "The only thing that you can judge an opposition side on is how they turn up and how you play against them.

"Really, all that we go on is the games that we've played against them in the past and how they approach us and how we approach them.


"If we were playing Connacht or we were playing Ulster, there would be that same mentality.

"We don't really draw any conclusions from where they are in the table or how they've done in past games; all we know is that we expect them to be at their best on Saturday, and we're sure they'll be expecting our best too."

Munster's best hasn't quite been good enough in seasons gone by, of course. McGahan's men have lost each of their last four encounters against Joe Schmidt's recently acquired side, and by a combined total of 60 points.

They haven't registered a try against Leinster -- never mind a win -- in over 320 minutes of action against them, so it was no surprise the word 'motivation' was brought up on several occasions.

And contrary to Schmidt's claims that looking back over previous encounters is of little use, McGahan assured that he had gone through the videos in detail to make sure their losing streak against Leinster comes to an end

"You can't argue with history, you can't argue with the stats," he said. "They have four wins out of the last four encounters and we're zero, and that's the way it stands.

"It's always a motivation when you lose against anyone, but especially someone very close to you. When you have lost a game you certainly look back on it with a little more detail than the ones you have won.

"Looking back, a lot of it was our own doing, with regards to our set-piece, our kicking game and a high number of turnovers, which really contributed to the results that have accrued.

"But this game will be judged on its own merits, judged on its own environment and it's one we are eagerly looking forward to."

There are no real surprises in Munster's extended squad, with neither Jerry Flannery or Keith Earls expected to resume full training until late this week or early next. Management also confirmed that recent injuries to Ian Dowling and Felix Jones would see them out of action for three and five months respectively.

Back to this weekend, and Munster's starting team and replacements will be named at lunchtime on Friday, by which time McGahan should know if Jonathan Sexton is likely to feature for Leinster.

"It doesn't really concern us if Jonny Sexton plays," he concluded with the same level of diplomacy he began with.

"If he plays he plays -- we would hope that he would play. He is a good player and we want all of Leinster's best players on the pitch. But we will deal with whatever circum-stances there are."

squad in factfile

Irish Independent

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