Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has refused to enter into a war of words with Donncha O'Callaghan after the province's legendary former second-row offered a stinging criticism of the squad following last weekend's second defeat of the season to the Dragons.
Speaking on television following Munster's shock 23-17 loss in Newport, O'Callaghan pointed to what he referred to as the “middle group”, who he believes have not been driving standards to back up the international stars.
"There has to be a core group who are there, week-in and week-out, that have to say it's unacceptable," O'Callaghan said on RTE.
"If Munster are to drive on, you have to look at when they're without their internationals.
"For me, I find it frustrating that there is a middle group not driving the standards and today was a perfect example. You get your internationals back, and you should look after them. I'm not making excuses, but players will make mistakes in their first game back, you need a club player who have their backs.
"You hate making comparisons, but you look at Luke McGrath and Rhys Ruddock, they're the guys who drive it (in Leinster)."
Rowntree was asked for his reaction to O'Callaghan's comments this afternoon, with the Munster boss firm in his stance:
“I’m not going to comment on other people’s views of our game. Donncha is entitled to his views. I’ll give you my thoughts on the game as I did Sunday, how about that?”
As he understandably was in the immediate aftermath of last Sunday's poor performance against the Dragons, Rowntree cut a similarly frustrated figure at today's press conference, as he looks to stem the tide after a disappointing start to the season.
With a rejuvenated Zebre arriving in Cork on Saturday, Rowntree is demanding a big response from his players.
“They’ve scored some good tries, haven’t they,” Rowntree said of the Italians.
“They’re coming over full of confidence, crikey, they’re playing quick. We certainly can’t play too loosely against them but it’s another chance for us to right our wrongs.
“We’ve had a disappointing start to the season, I’m not going to shy away from that.
“I’m not going to shy away from that. I certainly didn’t and the players haven’t. We’ve addressed it.
“We had a long journey home, a quick few hours at home with the family on Monday and back in on Tuesday fixing it, looking at it, being honest. It was a very honest review and we move forward.”
Rowntree opted against pointing the finger at the fact that the players are playing within a new system as the reason for the breakdown sloppiness, which has dogged them so far this season.
"It's not the result of a new attacking framework, it's the result of reactions from individuals,” Rowntree insisted.
“Individual responsibility, that comes from the ball carrier and the guys' reaction to that, and it's got to be better.
"The pictures are undeniable. The breakdown is the heartbeat of the game and it's got to be better, it has received a lot of attention this week.
"I have absolute belief in the body of work we have gone through this summer. We worked exceptionally hard, trained well.
"I've been around a bit and have seen a lot of pre-seasons, a lot of training environments and I have absolute belief in what we've done and that it's going to come out in the game.
"As I keep saying, it's stuff that we can control and we have to be better. So we've addressed that this week.”
Ireland winger Keith Earls is set to miss Saturday's clash against Zebre at Musgrave Park due to the hamstring injury he suffered last weekend.
“He’s not trained today,” Rowntree added.
“I haven’t got any more information than that but I can confirm he’s not trained today.”