Tuesday 23 January 2018

B&I victory has boosted whole squad for key week

Jacques Nienaber has enjoyed his time away from training pitch during the break. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Jacques Nienaber has enjoyed his time away from training pitch during the break. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Jacques Nienaber

The last two or three days have been really bright around Munster Rugby, with everyone re-energised following their various trips and relaxing breaks, but along with that was some great preparation work for a busy few months of rugby ahead.

Without a game for two weekends, the players and coaches enjoyed some time away from the team, and I must say I had a great week. A mid-season break like this is quite new for us, so we took the chance to check Paris off our list of holiday destinations.

While we are in the Northern Hemisphere we have to go and visit places that we have only seen in pictures before.

We asked the kids where they wanted to go and Paris won the vote. Travelling in Europe is so cheap in comparison to home. It is unbelievable that we can fly to Paris for less than €100: it would cost an arm and a leg to make that trip from home.

My command of French is very poor, but we all struggled by - that's part of the fun, trying to fit in to a different culture. Sometimes you get caught up in that culture too, so to get all the cheese and wine out of my system, I needed a couple of nice jogs around Castletroy in the last few days.

Even though I was enjoying the Parisian sites, I still had my laptop with me. I was able to view our footage when I woke early in the morning, so I kept on top of that analysis work. I wanted to look over the Cardiff game again in preparation for Zebre.

When we got back from our break, the coaches spent a few hours each day in the offices for meetings, and we worked from home. It gave us a chance to work at our own leisure, while still keeping busy, which was nice.


We reviewed the Cardiff game as a team on the Monday before we finished, and despite a late comeback, we were happy with how we played.

We gave away one try from an intercept, but I thought our plan for that specific incident was quite good. We had a counter attack opportunity, the space was on out wide, but we didn't pass straight away and then a bad pass put us under pressure.

I thought did very well in the first half. It was a very strong wind that we faced and to only trail 6-3 was a good return. Our kicking game was good, and the Cardiff stats in the second half showed it was really tough to exit.

Looking at the result, you might think we were in trouble until late on, but considering that some injured guys returned and that some young guys got more game time, it was a really pleasing game.

Before that five-week block of games without our internationals, if you had said to us that we'd win four out of five, we'd probably have taken that return.

Then to get a look at a guy like Fineen Wycherley, give more time to Conor Oliver, and having Robin Copeland back too after a long lay-off was really pleasing.

While we had no senior game, our B&I Cup win over Ulster A was a huge positive for the province. My son had an Irish cricket camp last Sunday in Dublin so I didn't make the game, but I watched it that evening and did some analysis on it. It was a great result for the club.

A lot of our players needed game time and lots of others impressed too. Kevin O'Byrne did very well; Copey got another game; a lot of them were very happy to have a hit-out, and they took their chance again.

Another positive from that fixture was that it gave a lot of the players a game under their belts. As a result, they were sharp in training this week and they forced the other guys to hit their standards immediately.

Having some extra time on our hands this last week has been great.

We spoke with the S&C guys on Wednesday morning and they let us know who needed to put some more load into their bodies after the break. This week we could have put the hammer down and had a few tough sessions, but we decided to try and simulate our sessions to mimic having a game at the weekend.

We don't want it to be a big shock to the players' systems when they line out against Zebre next week, so they should all feel like they have played a game this week, without having a few heavy sessions to recover from.

But you can see too that they are all keen to finish off the season with a bang. The on-field work has been competitive and everyone wants to impress.

Irish Independent

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