Saturday 24 February 2018

Defiant Holland ready for step-up against 'tier-one' Leinster

Munster's Billy Holland. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Munster's Billy Holland. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Snapshots of a defeat. Munster's maul going close, 14-man Leinster holding on and Ben Te'o appearing everywhere, smashing into tackles.

Chances come, but John Ryan tucks the ball up instead of spreading it wide. The referee's whistle goes, the penalty is within range but Dave Kilcoyne taps, with captain CJ Stander egging him on. Te'o smashes into him, gets up and smashes into Mike Sherry, forcing the ball to come loose.

Game over, chance gone.

Six months later, Munster return to the Aviva Stadium with renewed confidence and a new game-plan.

Rassie Erasmus is in charge and his methods appear to be paying dividends, even if Munster face a step up in class this weekend when they take on their old rivals.

So far, they have shown good signs, but Billy Holland (pictured) knows that something different is coming this weekend as they take on what he deems to be a "tier one" team.

And the Corkman has no regrets over the decisions his side took last April.

"Last year at the end of the game, when you are on the pitch you have a feel for it, it is very easy for people on the sidelines to criticise decisions. At the time, on the pitch, we felt like it was the right decision," he said.

"Looking back in hindsight maybe it wasn't, but we go out to win games, you don't go out to come away with a draw.

"We felt we were good enough to win last year. We played some good rugby. We came away with one point. We were going for four, not two.

"Look, if it comes down to it again this season, we will see how we are feeling on the pitch at the time, but when you are on the pitch, you really do have a feel for it.

"At the time we backed CJ's decision, it was the right call at the time, I felt."

After Leinster, Munster take on Racing 92 in Paris, Glasgow Warriors in Limerick and Ulster in Belfast, and Holland is relishing the challenge.

"The next three weeks are massive, starting with Leinster up at the Aviva next weekend," he said.

"We've had a few hard games at the start of the season, but no Grade 1, Tier 1 teams as we classify them, so this is our first massive game of the season, so really looking forward to it.

"It's the top teams in the Pro12 and all European games is what we classify as a Tier 1 side."

Munster have no fresh injury concerns after their win over Zebre and could welcome Jack O'Donoghue back for the Leinster game.

Leinster, meanwhile, look set to hand Robbie Henshaw his debut at the Aviva Stadium.

The former Connacht back may be pressed into service at full-back as a result of the growing injury list for Leo Cullen.

Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are out of the Munster game, while Rob Kearney is unlikely to be fit in time.

Dave Kearney has an ankle injury, while McFadden injured his quad against Cardiff Blues last weekend.

Mike McCarthy has a foot problem but may recover in time to play, while ex-Munster lock Ian Nagle came through his return in Wales unscathed.

Sean O'Brien is unlikely to be risked for the derby as Leinster continue to be patient with the Ireland star.

Irish Independent

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