I'll step up and lead young side, says Tomás O'Leary
Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30
Tomás O'Leary regards Munster's win over Ulster in the Pro12 as a real turning point in their season.
Going to Belfast that day Munster faced the prospect of six defeats in a row, but a performance laced with the traditional Munster values of hard work and stern defence saw Anthony Foley's side back to winning ways.
O'Leary is convinced that their three wins from four since then can drive them into the Pro12 play-offs.
"We were in a tough place. We were aware of public opinion, the negativity around media, supporters, but that is part of the job," he said ahead of tomorrow's clash with Zebre in Italy.
"It was a tough place to be as a squad because what we were producing on the pitch wasn't good enough. We didn't shirk that responsibility or try and deny that.
"The Ulster game was a big performance away from home. That was a big turning point - the team put out a big statement, especially physically," added O'Leary, who is hoping to make his sixth start since returning to Munster from London Irish last summer.
At 33, O'Leary is now the oldest fit player in Foley's squad since BJ Botha's knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
With seven players away on Irish duty the onus falls on O'Leary and a few others to set the standards, but he gets plenty of assistance, he says.
"Some of them are very good, some of them are a bit green yet, but you get experience through going to these places and through playing games," he said.
"Hopefully, there will be a few lads who haven't played a whole pile of rugby who will get an opportunity this weekend.
"The guys who have gone away to Irish camp open up an opportunity for lads who have been maybe on the bench or on the periphery of the squad, looking to show their worth. It's a good opportunity.
"The last few weeks, Conor (Murray) has been back and he has been playing quite well. In the Champions Cup I got a few cameos off the bench, so I am looking forward to hopefully getting a couple of weeks games together.
"This is a good opportunity for me to step up and lead and hopefully guide the younger brigade through an away experience in Italy. I am looking forward to the challenge."