Saturday 3 December 2016

Jerry Flannery: No-one here is blaming 'Killer' for his decision

Jerry Flannery

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

Munster’s Johnny Holland is congratulated by team-mates after scoring a try against Leinster last weekend Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Johnny Holland is congratulated by team-mates after scoring a try against Leinster last weekend Photo: Sportsfile

We are coming into three massive, season-defining games in the next few weeks and we want the players in as good a physical and mental state as possible.

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After looking at the GPS statistics, the collisions and high speed running data from all the lads involved in the Leinster game we decided to step training down a bit at the start of the week.

It was a very tough, physical game; there was a massive work-rate from the our players; we saw a real hunger and desire, but I just felt we didn't work smart enough on the front foot, which was probably our biggest failing.

Our defence and set piece were pretty good all the way though the game. And facing a quality team like Leinster you have to take that as a positive - especially away from home. But still, there is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment that we couldn't capitalise on some of the positions that we put ourselves in.

While we might have felt that we deserved more than a losing bonus point, in games like that one, you always get what you deserve. We probably weren't clinical enough.

I'm sure Leinster won't be overly delighted with their own performance because they are a much better team than they showed, but in tight games like that it can be tough to play expansive rugby.

Charge

As a coach all focus is on trying to get four points from the game, but it wasn't to be, and the draw wasn't there in the end either. Dave Kilcoyne's decision to tap the late penalty has been discussed widely, but the thing is when the players are on the field, they are the ones in charge.

Dave is one of the best ball carriers in the country and he backed himself to get across there. Hindsight is always 20-20: you might think we should have taken the draw, but he backed himself to take the win and his team-mates would back him too.

We want to create a culture that if someone decides they want to try something, everyone backs them.

There was no witch-hunt for 'Killer' after the game. He is in top form and has had some big moments this year: two tries against Dragons and another two against Glasgow spring to mind.

So put yourself in his position: 'I'm here, I'm five metres from the line, this is a chance to win the game'. Unfortunately Ben Te'o put in a couple of massive hits and he turned it over for them, and such is life.

I was very pleased to see some of our younger guys play well, especially Johnny Holland, who has had a long road back from injury. Johnny has only had three competitive starts for us. He had a bad hamstring injury last year - he tore it completely off the bone - so it was really slow for him to come back. It is exciting to have him back on the field and he showed that he wasn't overly fazed about the game and he performed well.

With training stepped down for the guys who played in Leinster, much of this week's focus went on preparation for the Connacht match next week and yesterday's Munster A game against Ulster Ravens.

Lads on the fringes and younger players all got game time, while Duncan Casey made a good comeback after being out injured with a torn pec muscle since November.

It was very much used as a development game for us and an opportunity to give others some valuable game time. Younger guys like John Poland and Kelvin Brown who played in the Ireland U-20s were included also. It serves as a worthwhile exercise for us to see what stage players are at when facing similar opposition.

It was hard to put the Pro12 aside for a week ahead of three must-win games for us. But the fact that we are playing Connacht, that they have already beaten us at Thomond Park and are playing such good rugby, all our focus is on that one at the moment.

This week we dissected the Leinster game to see what we could take out in an effort to make us a more rounded team. In these three games we cannot be predictable, we won't be able to rely on one-off runners, and we need variety in our attack.

We have to have the mentality first and foremost and physically build up right for the Connacht game. Only a win will suffice.

Irish Independent

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