Saturday 1 October 2016

Player Diary: Denis Hurley - There's a real determination to right the wrongs of last weekend

Denis Hurley

Published 04/12/2015 | 02:30

Anthony Foley stands back as his Munster players share some strong words before training
Anthony Foley stands back as his Munster players share some strong words before training

We have Dragons away this weekend, and over the years Munster have had some real tough games over there at Rodney Parade.

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The closeness of the results between the teams tells us that it's not an easy place to go to, but it's even tougher this week given that we are looking to bounce back after the defeat to Connacht.

We know that Dragons are a dangerous outfit, especially at home, and if conditions are not great you just don't know how the game can play out. Sometimes weather conditions turn everything into a lottery.

Looking at their footage they seem to have gained a great blend of youth and experience in their team, so we're going to have to be on our toes to leave Wales with all four points.

We understand what they do well and they like to mix up their game quite often but our focus this weekend has to be on our own performance.

As a squad we have to show that we can put in a better performance than we did last weekend and that we are capable of putting in a performance for 80 minutes.

Tough

From the first second we need to be fully focused on what we are doing. We don't want to have any more slip-ups like we did on Saturday night at home to Connacht.

It was tough to take that result and some of our performance and we now need to get back on track.

We weren't shell-shocked by the game-plan Connacht implemented against us: their game has developed to play a style that involves shifting the ball and moving it across the park.

We had trained for it, but they were very good at executing their plans and we made too many errors which compounded that. At times defensively we weren't putting enough pressure on them.

The conditions were reasonably tough with a strong wind but we ended up giving them a bit too much time on the ball. When contesting the ball they won the battles around the pitch in the first half.

During the opening 40 we had very little possession and they made use of whatever they had, continually recycling the ball and using it really well. They were playing against the wind and managed the elements perfectly by not kicking too much ball to us and not making mistakes with ball in hand.

A part of their game is trying to get the ball out wide. It involves a number of passes and at some stage you would have hoped that we could have got up in their faces and put a bit more pressure on those passes, but we didn't. It gave them great momentum as the game advanced.

The message at half-time was that we needed to do what they were doing to us - hold onto the ball playing into the wind. We did start better and we were able to shift the extra pass, and that managed to get us into little holes and gaps where we had a few really good line-breaks as a result.

There were certain times where you would have said on another day, when the confidence was up, we looked like we were going to score a couple of tries, but we ended up turning over the ball or knocking it on, which was frustrating.

We did come back into it but overall Connacht played the better rugby and deserved the win. It is hard to take, for us, and our supporters.

The disappointment is that we would always look at derby games against the provinces, especially at home, as highlights of the season.

You are putting yourself up against players around the country who are all competing for spots at international level. Under-performing at home in that scenario is really disappointing so it left a sour taste, but we addressed it and have to move on.

We know we didn't perform so we have to take learnings from it and use it coming into the next block of games, that is what tests our character and the resolve within the squad.

We have to use it as a launching pad rather than resting on the hurt and disappointment of the loss. We also need to take the positives from it and look to improve on everything when we hit the field next time out.

It is not easy to scrutinise a defeat like that, because everyone knows they have made mistakes, but that's the only way you learn. That is part and parcel of the game.

We have to just go back to the basics, look after the ball when we are in good positions and hold on to it.

If we can keep the pressure on, it eventually pays off but you can't be rushing plays and off-loads so we have looked at those things during the week.

We know what's ahead of us with Dragons and to be honest they are all big games ahead of us in the next few months.

The Champions Cup and two massive clashes with Leicester are just around the corner also but we won't be thinking about any of that before Sunday at Rodney Parade.

Challenge

Media and supporters may be looking to the week after but as a squad we are looking at the next challenge, and that starts with a trip to Wales this weekend.

We are currently third in the table and there is nothing between the top teams with it shifting each week. After losing at home we have to refocus on this game and concentrate on the task at hand, putting in a much improved performance.

Irish Independent

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