Saturday 10 December 2016

Huge test awaits as we get ready to front up

Felix Jones

Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30

Munster's Felix Jones. SPORTSFILE
Munster's Felix Jones. SPORTSFILE

I'm tremendously proud of how our guys have responded recently, and the Munster contingent led the way for Ireland in Chicago where they tore up the script.

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Back on the home front, Munster had a comprehensive win against Ospreys, and the guys have gone from strength to strength recently.

For me, I'm still only new to this coaching game, and it's an enjoyable challenge but it's definitely not what I expected in terms of the different hours.

Previously, as a player, you would be putting the vast majority of your effort into your training, in the gym and on the pitch. A lot of your mental and physical effort goes into that.

But now a lot of my effort goes into analysis, watching footage, and preparing the guys as best as I can. It's a mind-shift in terms of what you put your focus into.

As a player, I did analysis, but probably didn't appreciate the work my coaches did off the pitch. I am definitely learning a lot from Rassie and Jacques, and it's challenging. We have got quite a young group here; you look at the game last weekend, you have Duncan and Keats - they've been here for a while, but there are a lot of young faces like Sweets and Rory Scannell who have been going great too.

But there are bigger challenges ahead, and this evening will be massive. There are a few guys getting their first opportunity this evening and the touring games in Munster have always been massive for us, with guys wanting to put in a big performance.

We come into the game on the back of another positive display and a solid victory against Ospreys.

They were within a couple of scores right up until the hour mark and were right in that game.

If they had scored one try the game could have turned out way tighter. But the effort that our players have put in the last three weeks - to even perform against Glasgow was incredible and then to back it up away to Ulster, and then with all of the international guys missing against Ospreys, it was great.

PROUD

Hats off to the players, they are working their socks off. As a coaching group, we are massively proud of the guys. They have blown me away in terms of their character and how they dealt with everything that has gone on in Munster Rugby over the past few weeks. It has been unbelievable and you can't underestimate what these guys have gone through.

To play the Maori All Blacks will be another big step in their careers and it looks set to be another massive occasion for Munster Rugby. I was still in the academy at Leinster when Munster played the All Blacks in 2008. I watched it in UCD, I was doing my degree there at the time, and I couldn't get over what I was watching.

I remember talking to Niall Ronan about it when I first came down here. He said the Munster fans were banging on the side of the bus when they arrived at the ground that day. When the players got into the changing room the floor was vibrating.

We are going to face a different challenge in Thomond Park this evening but the Maori All Blacks will have a very experienced side.

We will have a few guys getting their first minutes of professional rugby with Munster, and a couple of younger guys getting their chance. It's going to be a big challenge, but one the guys are totally up for.

I don't think the Maori will be too far off what we see from the All Blacks. They have high-quality players in their side and are very competitive. By all accounts they are taking this game very seriously and are treating it like a Test match. It points to another classic.

Irish Independent

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