Thursday 19 October 2017

We're ready for Scarlets' breakdown poachers

Francis Saili going over for Munster’s first try against Ospreys at Thomond Park last Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile
Francis Saili going over for Munster’s first try against Ospreys at Thomond Park last Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile

Jacques Nienaber

All season we have been training with the aim of improving ourselves in every game and every session, and while that remains true, in finals week there is a tangible reward at the end.

We face an in-form side that will not be afraid of coming to Dublin again after their win last weekend, but after a pleasing performance against Ospreys we are happy with how we approach this game.

I thought our defensive performance was good at the weekend - I was very happy with holding Ospreys to three points, but most pleasing was that the effort was excellent until the very end.

To pick out one or two clips from the game it would be Francis Saili's chase down of Keelan Giles to force him into touch in the last second, and Jack O'Donoghue when the guy broke through for the try that was ruled out.

Nobody in the world would have been angry at Francis for giving up on that, but in that instance he clocked a new high speed running at 9.7 metres per second on the GPS. After 81 minutes in week 23 and being 23-3 ahead, to put in that effort, the best effort ever recorded by him in a Munster jersey... that probably was the pleasing thing to see.

Likewise, Jack's work-rate to try and stop their hooker scoring the try was top-class. Jack was only just on the field. We were trying to hold a guy up for a choke tackle and the referee correctly said 'let him go, his knee is on the ground'.

Jack then let him go and the guy just kept on running. Surely he cannot do that if the ref deems it a tackle and we have to let him go?

Phenomenal

But after that, the work-rate shown by Jack to turn and get back was phenomenal. That effort is a common theme from all of the guys, and we are keen to see that continue. 

I may be a defensive coach and good defence pleases me, but it is scoring tries and attacking play that really excites me. Simon Zebo's try was stunning, but again, the work-rate to get chase on that try was outstanding.

Every team that plays in semis and finals are all on a high and deserving of their position, but in a tight game it is that effort that can get you over the line. You get a narrow window of opportunity and if you don't use that window it will be gone.

Tomorrow we will need all that effort again because Scarlets are playing very well. They have been on an upward curve for quite some time, you can see they are confident.

The history they created last weekend is impressive. That was the first time in ten years that they won at the RDS, and they are the first team to win an away semi-final in the history of the competition. To do all that with 14 men was a very impressive achievement.

When they played us here, we were 21-6 up at half-time and then we lost that game. They scored 23 unanswered points in the second half and we couldn't score at all. They are a good side.

They are very strong from their set-piece. Leinster have an excellent scrum, but against 14 men, on central scrums Scarlets kept a flanker in the defensive line, which shows their strength. Against us they scored two tries from their scrum, and they got that by having the ball on a platter at the back. 

Their lineout success is 92pc, the highest in the league, so you can see they do well on their own ball. Within a phase or two of a set-piece they score most of their tries, and that is something that we need to be aware of.

Scarlets are well known for their breakdown work, and Felix Jones has been busy with that this week.

The fact that they have more players than usual that can poach the ball means they defend differently to a lot of teams. They like to leg-chop and contest the breakdown. James Davies is the player that everyone watches, but every second player in their team has that ability. Their winger Liam Williams had two poaches against Leinster!

But we cannot get tied up on Scarlets. We too have been playing well and I'm sure they are worried about some of our strengths.

It is so exciting to have this game tomorrow. For us it is another opportunity to learn and grow as a group, an opportunity to play in a final, an opportunity to play at the Aviva Stadium again.

It is definitely going to be a nice challenge, and considering we are a young team, it will be a real experience. We will all be tense in the build-up, but I am confident the squad will play to their maximum.

Irish Independent

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