Saturday 24 March 2018

I saw plenty of effort, but other errors cost us dear

Munster defence coach Jacques Nienabers saw positives in last weekend’s defeat to Leinster like the way Conor Murray and Simon Zebo helped put pressure on Isa Nacewa Picture: Sportsfile
Munster defence coach Jacques Nienabers saw positives in last weekend’s defeat to Leinster like the way Conor Murray and Simon Zebo helped put pressure on Isa Nacewa Picture: Sportsfile

Jacques Nienaber

I was fairly confident that we would get a result against Leinster because we had a good week's preparation, but after the game I was pretty deflated to lose.

But the positive out of it in my mind is that I thought the players really worked hard. There was always good energy and up to the moment they blew the final whistle we still believed that we could get a bonus point. We never once got negative and for me that was a real positive.

As a defence coach, when you see good attack play it is important to say 'well done' because you cannot cover everything on a rugby field. I said that to the boys in our review and they know there was some things they could have done better, but not every score is a defensive error.

I feel there are three errors you can make: one, is a system error, which is both the coach and players' fault; two, there is a skill error, when a player misses a tackle because he lacks the skill; and three, is an effort error, and you need to be unbelievably hard on an effort error.

If I see a lack of attitude and effort I will have no problem to come down hard on players, because that is not acceptable when you represent Munster.

For example, we had a system error when they kicked through and Simon Zebo and Ronan O'Mahony tackled Isa Nacewa into touch. That was a system error where they outflanked us, but I hope everyone saw how Zebo busted himself to get back and make the tackle. Ronan, too, he sprinted from the other side to make the cover tackle.

Even when their centre nearly scored from a grubber but he knocked on, that was a system error from our side. But we also saw the effort from Conor Murray to put him under pressure which resulted in the knock-on. I promise you their centre heard Conor and knew he had one opportunity to score. That's what makes the difference.

I think the first try on Darren's side from the scrum, some might say it was an error on his part, but I'd prefer to look at it as some well-executed, smart attacking plans. The reason I say 'smart' is I think their three men on the short side had crept up past the five-metre exclusion zone at the back of the scrum. That should have been called back, but they were smart and crept up unnoticed. Well done to them.

From the moment the ball comes out the back of the scrum to the time Nacewa touched it down in the corner was about one-and-a-half seconds. In that time that five-metre distance is massive for our defence to get in position, so it is hard to blame our guys.


For sure, Darren should have stayed on the outside man, but I have to accept that we have to give him those skills and we need to put him in that position more on the training field. For sure, he is now a better player having had to make those decisions.

For their second try we need to look at ourselves. The move stemmed from our over-thrown lineout and that set them on the attack. I thought we handled it quite well, we drove them backwards outside our 22, and when the ball came loose we committed four players to the ruck to try and force the turnover. But the ball came out their side and immediately we were caught short on numbers. Maybe the pass was forward - it is tough to say - but that try was down to us.

Their third try you have to hold our hands up; that was an excellent kick through from Robbie Henshaw. Ronan worked back well from a good defensive position to cover it, but sometimes you get an odd bounce of the ball at an unfortunate moment. If I was their attacking coach I'd be happy with that kick though, he played to the space.

Because we are a new team it will take some time for the system errors to reduce, but from the start I expected to see the effort from the Munster players, which I have seen. Players will make errors in defence, that's the only way you can learn, but I don't think they will make the errors again.

This weekend in Paris, I think we will face a similar challenge. Leinster played a well-established side against us, and the French champions will do similar on Sunday.

If we get three opportunities to score we need to take all three. They are a team with many internationals, they are experienced players and have executed well under pressure.

We need to do the same.

Irish Independent

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