Friday 20 April 2018

David Wallace: Unacceptable lack of hunger a big concern

Not all doom and gloom but missed tackles cannot be repeated

Anthony Foley will demand a reaction against Dragons
Anthony Foley will demand a reaction against Dragons
Last week’s try scorer Niall Scannell

David Wallace

Munster could have beaten Connacht after their second-half display in Thomond Park last weekend, but it would have been unfair on Pat Lam's men if that had happened.

Munster were slightly fortunate that they got the penalty try, because there was cover sweeping that could have tackled Andrew Conway.

That had a massive impact on the game but Connacht held firm, and they deserved the win. They are playing the best rugby out of all four provinces this term.

Connacht were much hungrier as well - they disrupted Munster's flow constantly and they always seemed to get to the important 50/50 balls.

Young players like James Connolly showed such a will to win, and with the stalwarts like John Muldoon and Aly Muldowney playing with passion it gave Connacht an extra edge in the collisions.

That's so important in a game of rugby, and it's rare to see Munster come up short from a hunger perspective.

What is important now, is how Munster respond to that defeat and the first-half display that let them down. It's not acceptable to miss those first-up tackles, and it allowed Connacht to thrive when they had to attack against the wind in the first-half.

Countless times Connacht players found the weak shoulder and brushed off the tackle - that is something that Munster need to remedy fast with Europe just around the corner.

It's a massive few weeks for the province, and with all of the injuries around it was great to see Munster playing with such a quality backline - but they never got going.

Connacht hunted in packs at Thomond Park and Munster didn't; there was one instance at the end when Jack O'Donoghue went on the offensive. The Munster support was slow to arrive, and as a result the hungrier Connacht players won the penalty.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom; the bench was a real positive, and when you see the likes of Dave Kilcoyne or Dave Foley come on, and have such a massive impact, it is encouraging moving forward.


Munster have the depth in their squad; if they avoid a repeat of the first-half performance against Connacht, everything will work itself out.

But the defence will always be a key aspect and they need to learn from that defeat. When Munster were 10-0 down, they did well to reply with a try from Niall Scannell, but that's when someone had to stand up and make the hard yards.

CJ Stander is the obvious man for that - he takes the game by the scruff of the neck - but you can't afford to rely on one player in those situations.

It's very difficult to cope when you have lost a leader like Paul O'Connell. And then Tommy O'Donnell and Peter O'Mahony are added to a lengthy injury list.

It's never nice to lose to a provincial rival but it might act to sharpen the senses ahead of Sunday's trip to Dragons.

They know they cannot afford to lose two Pro12 games before they head into the back-to-back clashes with Leicester in the Champions Cup. Momentum is key, but a win in Rodney Parade is never easily earned.

The weather can often play a factor over there, and Dragons are a very good side on their day, so there are a lot of variables. But Munster need to focus on themselves and where they need to improve.

This game gives them the opportunity to expel the demons from last weekend's performance.

It's all about the urgency and getting their defensive line set right. They can't fall off tackles like that ever again.

With the backline Munster have, that will click if it is given time, and when a few of the big names return in the pack that will become an even more powerful unit.

But for the time being the players on the field need to keep their mentality right and ensure that last weekend was a blip.

A win over in Wales would go a long towards healing those wounds, and it is well within reach with a good solid display.

All is not lost, Munster are still third in the Pro12.

Is the offside rule a thing of the past?

The offside line is constantly being broken in every game I watch these days, and it cropped up again in Thomond Park last weekend.

In the second half it was easier to count the amount of times when Connacht were actually onside, because they were doing it so often. But you can't place all of the blame on the referees in those instances: the touch judges need to be more proactive in how they approach the games too.

There's far too much for the referee to police; when he's trying to look after the ruck and tackle, he can't be expected to keep an eye on the defensive line too.

That's the job of the touch judges but they're not doing it. American football is a good example: you're caught if you stray even slightly offside.

When teams are constantly breaching the rules, the opposition don't get the chance to express themselves and it damages the spectacle.

Saying all that, the better team won in Limerick last Saturday, it was just frustrating to see another touch judge motionless. The touch judges need to get involved for the betterment of the game.

Irish Independent

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