Tuesday 25 July 2017

Now is not the time for a slip in our standards

Connacht provided a tough test for Munster at the Sportsground back in December and here Tommy O’Donnell celebrates with his Munster team-mates after Rhys Marshall scored their side’s opening try – tomorrow, the team will be looking for a repeat of last season’s win at Thomond Park
Connacht provided a tough test for Munster at the Sportsground back in December and here Tommy O’Donnell celebrates with his Munster team-mates after Rhys Marshall scored their side’s opening try – tomorrow, the team will be looking for a repeat of last season’s win at Thomond Park

Rassie Erasmus

After a tough game in Treviso and plenty of travelling, we all arrived back to Cork and Limerick in the early hours of Sunday morning, but delighted to have secured the home semi-final that we have wanted all season.

It is a remarkable statistic that no home team has ever lost a semi-final since the play-offs were introduced, but we are very wary that records can easily be broken.

With that in mind, we will be hugely focused when it comes to playing the last-four game.

This was a satisfying result and performance from the squad over in Italy, especially considering we lost Billy Holland due to illness on the eve of the game, and then Dave O'Callaghan and Ronan O'Mahony early in Treviso.

We have our fingers crossed for the two boys that they might be able to return soon, but it is tough on them to pick up injuries at this stage of the season.

Still, I was very happy to see the rest of the team and the replacements put in an efficient performance to take the win.

The previous week everyone in the team was boosted by the win for the 'A' team in the British and Irish Cup final, and we were very happy with the way some of those guys stepped into the team last weekend.

In total we had seven of them involved - including Fineen Wycherley, who travelled as 24th man and was called on to the bench for Billy.

Conor Oliver put in another strong showing, while Alex Wootton was also very happy to score his second senior try after his excellent score for the 'A' side in Cork.

Chip

As we expected it took some time to wear down Treviso and they posed a significant defensive challenge early on, but once Darren Sweetnam scored his first try after Rhys Marshall's unexpected chip over the top, we settled into the game and I think we deserved the bonus point win in the end.

It as an important win for us, one that guarantees at least second place for us. It has taken some consistent work to get here. It is a good reward for the effort the team have put in over the 21 games to date, but there has been nothing won yet.

One positive for the remaining weeks of the season is that we can all put our passports away until the holidays. We face Connacht in Limerick tomorrow, then welcome our semi-final opponent to Thomond Park two weeks later, while we will really hope to have another outing in Dublin and the Aviva Stadium to look forward to in the Guinness Pro12 Grand Final.

We know that we still have a lot of work to do to even reach that final, and with that in mind, we want to put in a strong performance against Connacht at Thomond Park tomorrow evening. It is important that we continue our good run of results in the competition.

As we saw against Pat Lam's side at the Sportsground earlier this season they are a high quality side - you don't become Pro12 champions for nothing. And as I have been told, they were deserving and convincing winners at Thomond Park last season on their way to that title.

We have to be on our guard for sure. They will also be in search of a bit of momentum to help them into their Champions Cup play-off, so it should be a hard-fought inter-pro match.

Since we have picked up a few injuries in recent weeks and with the semi-final in mind, we will do a bit of juggling with the team for tomorrow, but whoever is named in the 23 will be deserving of their place.

We have seen all season long that Munster is about more than a 15- or 23-man game, and we have seen some solid performances from a high number of players in this competition.

You might think that the match-day 23 is already written in stone for the semi-final, but that's not the case. We are seeing high standards being set right across the board in training and in matches, so the management team still has plenty to consider in the coming weeks.

I have been blown away by the support we have received from the Munster people all season long, and I'm sure you will all be out in force again tomorrow. Having you there behind us is a real comfort when the team hits a tricky patch in a game.

While our season may not be riding on this game, there are still a couple of huge games ahead for us and I hope we can give you plenty to celebrate before an exciting season comes to a close. Enjoy tomorrow's game and the next few weeks!

Irish Independent

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