Wednesday 28 September 2016

Denis Hurley Player Diary: It's great to be back, but the battle for places is fierce here nowadays

Denis Hurley

Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30

Munster’s CJ Stander is tackled by Shane Buckley in training
Munster’s CJ Stander is tackled by Shane Buckley in training

It was great to get my first start of the season last weekend. The result didn't go our way but I was happy to be out on the field again. After a long lay-off, you crave that bit of game-time and to start was great for the confidence.

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There is so much competition around the place right now, I've never experienced anything like it. The backline is only going to get more competitive with Keith Earls and Simon Zebo on the way back, and you can feel the edge in training.

But it's good to help you focus and all good sides have that competition running throughout their squad, so we are blessed to have a really strong squad again this season.

Competition drives the performance of the team, because every player wants to take their opportunity when they get minutes on the pitch.

If someone is pushing me for my place, I am naturally going to want to keep my levels up.

That's the special thing about rugby, you can't have guys playing as individuals, it's all about the collective. Trust is the vital component, and it's unique to this game.

Challenge

You can't perform well unless the guys around you are also on point, and we are all there to challenge each other and raise our game as a result.

You can't ask a performance from someone if you're not prepared to do it yourself, so it's a case of everyone working together and starting with your own individual display.

It creates a real bond between the players, and if that bond isn't there the team will malfunction.

All of the parts need to be working in unison for the team to prosper.

However, even with that, sometimes things don't go your way and although I was delighted to be on the pitch last Friday, it was soured by the defeat and the manner in which we didn't close out the game.

Coming away from one of the most difficult venues in the Pro12 with a losing bonus point is ordinarily not a bad thing, but we always expect more from ourselves and to have the upper hand only to concede late points is disappointing.

I thought it was one of our better performances this year - we played really well but sometimes things just don't go your way and ill-discipline caught up with us.

Our half-backs certainly controlled the game and they put us in the right positions in the pitch, and that was on the back of good work from the forwards, who won the battle at the set-piece.

But in the end we couldn't reflect the dominance on the scoreboard and that is disappointing.

We know we have the building blocks to push on from here however, and it all starts against Ulster this evening.

The inter-pros are always fiercely competitive and this one will be no different with the internationals coming back into both teams.

These games are unique in their own right - you're playing against a hugely competitive side and we know each other so well that the margins are extremely tight.

The physicality is upped another level and whoever wins the collisions goes on to dominate.

Momentum is a huge thing in these tight matches, and when a ball breaks you hope it's a Munster player that dives on it first. We want to be first to every ball this evening.

Ulster are such a dynamic side and can change their game at any time, to suit. We need to be ready for that, because they have the quality to exploit any weakness.

But being part of a side like Munster you have to have complete confidence in your own game-plan and we know what we need to do to put in the required performance.

Ulster have a strong kicking game and that's an area they often go to in these sort of games but we are confident in our own ability and a few early showings in front of our home support could drive the momentum in our favour.

That can alter the course of the game and we need to be clinical when an opportunity presents itself.

It would be huge to beat Ulster, it's still very early in the season but we would be very happy with five wins from our opening six Pro12 games.

Europe is just around the corner too and we need to continue to build on our performances each week.

The confidence will grow if we can form a good run in the Pro12 so we're going to Thomond Park this evening looking to make amends for last Friday.

If we stick to our game-plan, believe in the system and win a few key battles we will certainly put ourselves in a good position to claim points.

Then of course tomorrow all eyes will be on Twickenham, and it's a bit surreal seeing the top two sides from the south taking part in a World Cup final in the north. It would just happen to be their first ever meeting in a World Cup final too.

It's disappointing not to see a northern hemisphere team go through but at the end of the day it will be a fantastic game to watch with two quality sides in action.

There's a reason they both reached the final and it's because they were the two best attacking teams in the competition.

Australia have the players that can really disrupt things and we saw what Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper did last weekend, but I can't look past New Zealand here.

Irish Independent

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