Tuesday 27 September 2016

David Wallace: Unity is vital if players are to get victory

Defence and belief must improve to shake off poor run of results

David Wallace

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

Munster’s CJ Stander goes through his stretching routine during training at UL Photo: Seb Daly/ Sportsfile
Munster’s CJ Stander goes through his stretching routine during training at UL Photo: Seb Daly/ Sportsfile

It's one of the biggest weeks in Munster's history for different reasons, compared to years gone by.

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At this time of the year you want to be playing knockout matches in the big competitions. This does have a knockout feel to it, but it's for qualification to the Champions Cup next term.

At the moment, there is no denying that Munster are going through a difficult spell and there is genuine concern from the people on the streets. So to that end Munster cannot contemplate anything but a win with what's at stake.

The coaches do what they can do, but ultimately it's the players on the pitch who make the difference. Last week would have served as the perfect timing for players to meet and gather a collective mindset for the last two games of the season.

Hopefully there will an airing of their thoughts in as constructive a manner as possible. Sometimes it's necessary for some difficult home truths and that's often the only way for a team to build and get themselves out of this scenario.

I was lucky with my time in Munster, we had individuals who would grasp that nettle, and would be very up front and we would have had frank conversations.

Players need to talk about what's at stake for them and Munster Rugby - if you don't perform what might happen, and that only stems from players being honest with themselves and each other.

The players need to take ownership of the situation that they are in, and possibly the situation they might find themselves in next season. Or else it could be a disaster for Munster Rugby.

Munster have had some massive matches down through the years, but this one has a different air to it. Albeit they have two home games, against teams who are close to them in the Pro12 standings.

Maybe that will help Munster on the day. Munster are currently out of it. The other teams might feel slightly less vulnerable and the hunger might get Munster over the line. But hunger will only get you so far at the same time, unless you do the right things on the field, you won't be in the right place to challenge.

Defence

A lot of Munster's problems stem back to the defence. The selflessness and unity in defence must be shown. At times that unity hasn't really been that evident; some players do their own things and that isn't the answer in this scenario. Players need to stick to the structure, and the team needs to be rolling together - they can't be playing for themselves.

There's no problem in terms of effort for this team. Guys are really trying their hearts out but some of them need to be that bit smarter. And in a game like this Munster cannot focus too much on Edinburgh, it's all about themselves.

If Munster play as well as they can it's going to be very difficult for anyone to beat them. Munster have to find that mental approach that makes every pass and tackle so vitally important. You don't know how these extra yards might make the difference at the end of the day.

Munster need to dominate teams. They have shown at times that they can - against Leinster, and even in the first half against Connacht, there were large periods when they were in the ascendency.

Munster must focus on the positives there; if something goes wrong it's forgotten about, and it's onto the next battle. They have to finish stronger, and believe that all that's important is the next phase, the next tackle and the next pass. With sports psychology, all that matters is the next play, you should forget about everything else.

When you come to a match like this, the players stand up before the game starts. The winning of the match will hopefully have been in the preparation.

As a team, you do need to go through periods like this where your neck is on the line. You need to get forced out of your comfort zone, where you either lie down, and get steamrolled or you come out fighting.

It's not just fighting for the first 20 minutes, it's for the full 80.

Munster need to have that tunnel vision. They need to be bitterly determined, and unwavering in their ambition. They need to fight tooth and nail at every juncture, and qualification for the Champions Cup will take care of itself.

Irish Independent

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