Wednesday 28 September 2016

We can't afford to be left playing Challenge Cup rugby next season

Olayer Diary: Conor Murray

Published 22/04/2016 | 02:30

Munster will bid to repeat their heroic victory in Edinburgh when they play in Cork next Friday
Munster will bid to repeat their heroic victory in Edinburgh when they play in Cork next Friday

We don't like losing and we don't enjoying having a below-par season, so we all know what is at stake in the next two games.

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It will be a very tight finish for us in the next few weeks, but I think if we can finish with two strong performances we can turn things around. We just can't afford not to qualify for next season's Champions Cup.

It is scary to even think about it. It is obviously a huge motivation for us in the weeks ahead. As representatives of this club, our group of players certainly don't want to be part of the first Munster team that doesn't qualify for Europe.

It would be a tough blow to ride, and to be staring down the barrel like we are now, it is very difficult. The pressure is on us and we have to win against Edinburgh and Scarlets. They are two games that will have a huge impact on us as a group. We have to win them, it's as simple as that.

For sure, it's been a very, very testing season. It's just about picking ourselves up and just getting on with the job. But to win we need to prepare well, get over that defeat in Galway and get on with it.

Meaning

It is just two games of rugby, but it carries so much more meaning than that for everyone involved in Munster. It can affect the organisation, staff, supporters and players. So without putting too much pressure on ourselves, we all know too well what's at risk.

The thing is we were pretty good for the first 20 minutes against Connacht. We showed glimpses of what we can do, but that is what annoys and frustrates all of us. Every game this year we have had glimpses of brilliance and produced moments to give you hope, but we can't keep saying that every week. We can't keep making big mistakes that cost us games.

Maybe the good moments have papered over the cracks and we have been able to draw on the positives, but in reality we haven't been good enough for 80 minutes. The consistency hasn't been there and the levels of performance haven't been there.

We knew Connacht were going to hold on to the ball, go back and forth and use their options. We knew what was coming and we didn't execute. So from now on we have to focus on ourselves, stop looking outside, and get the job done.

In every game things go for you and other times the ball doesn't bounce for you, but that is true for both teams. Had Francis scored his try we would have been within one score of Connacht at a key time, but at the same time, they could well have had a couple of more tries with a bit more luck. Those moments will always be there to look back on, but we shouldn't be in the business of searching for excuses. We've let ourselves down.

Don't get me wrong, Connacht are a good team, a very good team and they eventually broke us down. There were big moments in the game, but if we are being truthful they were better than us and they deserved their win.

The day after the Connacht game a few of us went up to Kildare to join up with the Ireland squad, and to be honest it was probably a good thing. Had we been at home we'd have been watching the game over and over and dwelling on what might have been. In defeat, that can be a bad thing, so it was a positive distraction.

Shaking everyone's hand at camp, you could see from their reaction that they knew what we were going through. All the lads would have been watching the game, they knew how it went. But in Ireland camp you have to leave your provincial highs and lows behind you - the focus is on Ireland for that time.

It was Andy Farrell's first introduction to us too, he just laid down a few ideas and markers of what he expects in defence. It was good to turn focus to Ireland matters for 24 hours or so, and even that time probably helped us shake off the bad feelings.

We had a few reviews of the Six Nations, it was the first time we got the chance to get feedback from the coaches after the Scotland game, but there were a few plans laid out ahead of the South Africa tour. That's something to look forward to as well; it'll be an important tour, so we are all keen to be involved for that.

On Wednesday in Mitchelstown we had a review of the Connacht game and a preview of the Edinburgh game. It made for a tough review, but we parked that frustration and got stuck into studying the threats that Edinburgh bring ahead of the next game. They are a quality side.

Overall, we've had a pretty poor season, but we still have a chance to have a bit of hope for next season. A couple more positive performances can see us good and then we can start trying to fix a few of the things that have been missing ahead of the new season.

The fact that we play Edinburgh next in Irish Independent Park is a good thing. I love playing in Cork, I love the surroundings and a jam-packed stadium will be a lift to all of us. I hope the Munster supporters will turn out in force - they always do - but we really need their help to get through a tough time and achieve success in this couple of weeks.

We can point the finger of blame and get on each other's backs when things go wrong, but as a group we are trying to stay as tight as possible and get through this together. I'm sure our supporters will help us with that too.

Irish Independent

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