Saturday 1 October 2016

We all know it's time to show a lot of character

Ian Costello

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Munster half-backs Ian Keatley and Conor Murray in training this week (Sportsfile)
Munster half-backs Ian Keatley and Conor Murray in training this week (Sportsfile)

There's no hiding from the loss to Leicester last weekend. Everyone involved in Munster Rugby is extremely disappointed, especially to lose a home European game.

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We have huge expectations when it comes to our home record so to disappoint so many people last weekend is hard to take. Our performance against Leicester Tigers didn't do ourselves or our supporters justice.

We have to do things the hard way now, to go away from home and get a result. Essentially, it's half-time and we are 12-0 down.

It's going to be difficult going to Welford Road but we need to bring a positive mindset. We know we weren't far away last weekend and there are plenty of areas of the game, both sides of the ball, we should have controlled to win the match.

We started really well, and should have scored but we weren't ruthless enough - we looked at why we exerted so much pressure without getting the rewards. Our inaccuracies allowed them to hang in at 6-6 instead of capitalising on the opportunities we created.

There are often big moments where momentum changes in a game. Their first try was such a moment. There have been a lot of things said already this week about the refereeing decision but it did have a very significant bearing on the game at a key time.

Turning point

It was clearly a poor decision. We went from a penalty advantage, looking at a kick to the corner, where the odds of scoring from our maul are very high, to a Leicester penalty. Leicester kicked to our 22 and they mauled us for a try, a massive turning point in the game.

The second try before half-time was the equivalent of an own goal and now they had all the momentum going into the break.

At half-time we spoke about tightening up on our errors and converting our pressure to points. We knew if we did we had a good chance. We came out strong in the second half and worked our way back to 18-14.

Just when it looked like we were in control we made a critical defensive error that let them off the hook. For the most part we were strong defensively but I was disappointed with the Ben Youngs try.

From what was just a speculative chip ahead - it wasn't part of a pre-planned move - they managed to turnover the ball and score. Earlsy read it really well, and we weren't quick enough to secure the ball and they counter-rucked. Our focus should have been about getting back into position but we didn't react quickly enough and Youngs exploited that.

Youngs is a key threat there. A big part of our game this week is to nullify his threat and in doing that you stop Leicester to a certain degree.

You need to keep them out of those situations that will put you under pressure. We will have to limit the amount of time that Leicester spend in our 22 because they have such an effective maul.

We have addressed the need for focus and concentration for a full 80 minutes and ruthlessness around those key moments in the game. You won't get second opportunities in Welford Road, we have to take every chance we get.

There has been a very positive reaction from the players and the staff this week. That is so important on weeks like this because everyone is extremely disappointed, and angry at their own performance. We don't have time to lick our wounds, our backs are to the wall, we know it's a time to show a lot of character.

That positivity and energy will ripple throughout the squad in the lead up to this game, which is essential to being in the right mindset. We understand that that wasn't good enough on Saturday night.

We looked at the amount of opportunities that we created, we looked at the points that we conceded and without changing a lot we could have won that game.

We acknowledge that there is a massive challenge ahead of us, that there is no margin for error but it is nothing extraordinary or something we haven't seen before.

We are not asking players to play beyond their capabilities, we have got to go out and perform under pressure, with more accuracy. That was the message that came out of our review this week and it's a chance for everyone to come out swinging on Sunday.

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