Quinlan urges returning stars to make Perpignan a 'turning point'
Alan Quinlan is urging Munster's returning internationals to settle quickly back into the side and recapture the intensity they showed against Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral last month.
Munster's form has been inconsistent all season but December's extraordinary bonus-point win in the south of France was heralded by many as a defining moment in their combined assault on the Heineken Cup and the Magners League.
Since then, continuity has been scuppered somewhat by the IRFU's player-management programme, with several front-line internationals rested.
Paul O'Connell and co were obliged to sit out most of the Christmas period, when Munster laboured to victory over Connacht before going down to Ulster at Ravenhill last weekend.
While Quinlan accepts that the rest period is critical to player welfare, he also bemoans the effect it has on the continuity of team performances.
"There is both for and against (it)," he answers when asked about the player-management programme.
"Guys are going to be fresh now and we're all chomping at the bit to get back playing again, so that's the positive.
"Obviously you break up the momentum, but that's just the way it has to be. You can't just play week-in, week-out with the internationals on the scene. In some ways it could be better, but then guys are risking injury.
"The coaches have to play the hand they're dealt," continues the Munster veteran. "Certainly we will be fresh in the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can adapt.
"The Perpignan performance has generated a massive amount of confidence within the group. People have trained and worked hard, so hopefully we can get the performance up to speed.
"Obviously on Sunday when we play the Scarlets we're going to be a bit rusty because we haven't played in a couple of weeks. Hopefully we can adapt quickly and get back to a high level of performance."
Munster are fourth in the Magners League table and look well set to secure a play-off position, despite having lost five of their ten league matches.
It has been suggested that they are playing within themselves somewhat on account of the extra room for manoeuvre afforded by the new format, but Quinlan rejects any such notion and is keen to see greater consistency over the next few months.
"Every time we play we want to try and play well, get a good performance and gain a bit of momentum," he says. "It has been a bit of a stutter for us since the start of the season, but I think it can be the case that we peak at the right time this year.
"Hopefully the Perpignan match can be a bit of a turning point where we can kick on now and produce a level of performance over the next couple of weeks.
"Then the internationals are away for six weeks and we play three Magners League games and then it's nearly into April.
"Last year we had a great performance against the Ospreys in the quarter-finals, then underperformed against Leinster. So we want to make up for that and try to be in the mix and bring out our best performances for the knockout stages, which we did in 2008.
"If you remember the quarter-final, semi-final and final, we were hopping off the sod, and we produced the performances that got us results.
"We need to produce big performances in the next two weeks. We can't sit back and say 'let's peak at the end of the season'. We need to peak over the next few weeks to get us that momentum.
"We've shipped a fair bit of criticism since the start of the season and rightly so at times," he admits. "But as I said a couple of weeks ago before the Perpignan match, there was a good feeling within the group and we were working really hard and we were starting to build a bit of momentum."