Wednesday 21 March 2018

Aussie lock enjoying different kind of pressure at Munster

Mark Chisholm
Mark Chisholm
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Mark Chisholm has settled in well at Munster but old habits can die hard and the Australian still has to correct himself when French words spring to mind instead of English ones.

The 34-year-old cuts a formidable figure as he settles himself into a chair. If filling Paul O'Connell's boots is a daunting challenge, he doesn't look perturbed.

The former Wallaby spent the last four seasons fighting relegation at the bottom of the Top 14 with Bayonne before the Basques finally succumbed last season. Their skipper moved to Munster during the summer and is now tasked with a different set of pressures.

This weekend's return to France has been postponed due to security concerns as the fallout from Friday's terrorist attacks on Paris rumble on, but Chisholm was relishing going to the home of the Top 14 champions with a level of expectation on his shoulders.

"The pressure is different," he explained. "The release of pressure of not being asked by presidents to win games and get things together. It's quite relaxing being here.

"You're here and you know everyone is going to do the right thing and everyone is going to follow the gameplan and play that way and that is a release of pressure.


"Last week was fantastic. It was my first European Cup game with Munster or first European Cup game in general but with every game that you play there are always areas that you can work on and it's the great thing about playing week in, week out - you can always work on the things you need to improve on for yourself for next week."

So focused was he on trying to avoid relegation in France, the exploits of CJ Stander hadn't come to Chisholm's attention last year but he is now aware of his new captain's abilities.

The Irish-qualified South African has been exceptional so far this season, but there is a fear that he may be taking too much on his shoulders. Chisholm disputes that theory and said the support cast are working hard to allow Stander make his trademark bursts.

"The great thing is we don't really depend on CJ, none of the game is based around CJ at all," Chisholm said. "We share the workload which is a great thing. It's what I've learned coming in is that you share the workload between the players.

"CJ has a massive work-rate; he carries the balls but if you see the blokes cleaning out around him, doing their job, they've an enormous work-rate as well. It's those little finer details - sure he's got the ball and he might have the ball the whole time but it's the blokes around him that are making that space and making sure we've got the quick ball."

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