Hard work can trump Racing's star names
A couple of minor tweaks needed to turn things round after derby defeat
Published 14/10/2016 | 02:30
It was a tough defeat at the hands of Leinster, but Munster have built up a lot of momentum in the early rounds of the Pro12, and with a few small tweaks they can put it up to Racing 92 this weekend.
It wasn't all doom and gloom at the Aviva, and there are positives to bring forward to Stade Yves-Du-Manoir, but Munster made errors and gave away some sloppy penalties.
The early penalties were easy points for Johnny Sexton and they gave Leinster a pressure release. Things like that let Leinster in, although Munster started well.
The Munster attack was making headway and up front they were packing a real punch. But the Leinster defence packed some big hits, and forced turnovers at critical times.
For most of the game, Leinster held the upper hand in the physical stakes, and that will be a learning point for Munster ahead of their Champions Cup opener.
Overall it was an inter-pro derby that certainly had the European feel to it in terms of emotion, and in that sense it was good to get that game in, a week before Racing.
The tries could have been prevented, and Nacewa's second effort was probably a forward pass. That could have swung the game in Munster's favour, especially if they had been more clinical with the ball.
A lot of the things that could have gone wrong went wrong, and the fine margins went Leinster's way.
All of that will aid Munster's preparation this week and it will be fresh in the mind but they hopefully won't get caught out in the same areas two weeks in a row.
The nuts and bolts are there to challenge Racing.
The carrying up front was good; they were making in-roads.
Tyler Bleyendaal has the ability to take on the opposition defence and get the backline firing with an off-loading game, which can open up a team.
With the centres Munster have coming through, that will help a high-tempo game. Jaco Taute impressed again when he came on and I am looking forward to seeing more from him.
It's gut-wrenching when you lose to Leinster but the fixes are the top six inches: things like soft penalties, protecting the ball and simple system errors in defence.
Those are simple fixes; they need to get their discipline right and not give the opposition momentum easily.
The defence has been strong all season but for once they were out-done; Leinster were the aggressor. Munster slipped off a few tackles and that is something that has to be fixed coming into the Champions Cup.
The opposition this weekend are excellent. You don't become Top14 champions and Champions Cup finalists without having a good squad; they have recruited really well over the last number of years.
Ronan O'Gara is a very shrewd operator, with his rugby brain and tactical awareness and getting the best out of his team. He'll be an asset in knowing how Munster think, and that is a massive plus for Racing.
The scrum is so important this weekend. It has been a real strength for Munster this season, but it came second best against Leinster. Against the French it's paramount that they set the tone in the scrum. So much depends on being dominant here and getting a foothold in the game that can lead to penalties.
Prior to Leinster, Munster drew confidence from the way their scrum performed and they have the stamina to out-last the French in that facet of the game.
Munster must believe they are a harder-working team. Racing may have the star-studded line-up but at the end of the day rugby is about hunger and wanting to win the game more.
That goes a long way in rugby more so than in other sport because of the physicality involved, and the team with the most hunger and desire usually comes out on top.
Hard work always stood to Munster and that mental resilience has got to be there.
Down through the years they have always spoken about belief, and it's always belief that gets out that last vital 5pc.
Cortisone is not a form of cheating
Whatever about Munster, it's been a rough week for Racing 92 off the field, with Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff all being questioned on their test results after the Top 14 final.
The key thing in this argument is that cortisone injections are at times needed to help an athlete recover from an injury.
I haven't had a lot but I have had one or two out of competition and from my experience you take these injections to settle down a joint when it's inflamed.
The only reason you take it is to aid recovery in order to play unhindered on the pitch. They are anti-inflammatories, which is a far cry from anything performance-enhancing.
There is a lot of scare-mongering in the press and I feel that muddies the waters in terms of trying to clean up the sport from some possible real problems that may be out there, such as performance-enhancing drugs.
Cortisone is not people trying to cheat at all. It is a case of just trying to get players out on the field not feeling uncomfortable and having to deal with injuries.
I am certainly not trying to say there is no-one out there using banned substances in world rugby right now - it would be naïve to think so - but I do feel that this is not the case here with the players at Racing 92.