Friday 13 December 2019

'It has been a tough few months but there's light at the end of the tunnel'

Munster’s Robin Copeland in action during training in Bishopstown. Picture credit: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Munster’s Robin Copeland in action during training in Bishopstown. Picture credit: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Denis Hurley

I'm out injured at the moment so I've been on baby-sitting duty for the past couple of weeks, but I hope to be back in action by the time the Ospreys game comes around on February 14.

I have a small tear in my calf. I felt it tightening up for about a week before the Stade Francais game in Stade Jean Bouin. It was feeling fine then again, until I went training on the Tuesday after that, and halfway through the session I felt a little pull on it.

It's a minor enough thing but it puts me out of action for a few weeks. And it's just a bit annoying because you want to be as fit and fresh as possible.

I injured my left leg, the same one that I did my ankle syndesmosis, so there might be some correlation between the two, but it wasn't that bad.

With an injury like that, it's the first 48 hours that are most important. You need to make sure it's compressed and that you are icing it. With modern technology we have the Game Ready machine, which is fantastic.

Originating in the USA and used by a number of NFL and NBA stars, it's a sleeve that you wrap around the muscle and it compresses the air, pushing iced water around the affected area.


The lads have been doing really well on the pitch. With two wins in a row, and two good performances as well, things are going the right way. The win in Thomond Park against Stade Francais stood out as the performance that got the few bad games out of the system.

Playing the way the lads did for one another, it also fed into the Treviso game. There might have been nothing to play for qualification-wise, but they were trying to rebound from the losses we suffered over the Christmas period and it showed all character and spirit we have to go out and achieve two bonus point wins over the last two weekends.

It has been a tough few months but now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

There was a lot of frustration between ourselves. In that patch over Christmas, our performances limped by, because we were struggling to get the ball across the whitewash. No matter how well we might have been playing, we weren't making an impact on the scoreboard and that was a frustrating thing for us.

The performance against Stade at Thomond Park showed all of the frustration and anger being released. Finally guys were taking their chances and there was a real enjoyment behind the feeling that things can go right again.

The last couple of games have given us that boost again. That will be huge going forward because obviously, scoring tries is essential. When we are winning games, we always score two or three tries at least.

We haven't had many easy fixtures against Zebre in Italy. The big thing for them is that they need to finish ahead of Treviso in the league, and Zebre have had a very good season so far.

They beat Worcester Warriors home and away in the Challenge Cup, and a narrow loss to Gloucester ended a four-game winning streak for them in all competitions. They have been very tough to beat this season, especially at home, and they were unlucky not to beat Gloucester.

That game was Gloucester's 15th straight tournament win and for Zebre to push a quality outfit like that so hard shows their quality and intent.

Like us they will want a spot in next season's Champions Cup. So far they are the form Italian side in the league but they will know that the complexion of the league table can change fast.

Momentum is a big thing, and while we will want to capitalise on our wins over Stade Francais and Treviso, they will want to kick on after back-to-back wins over Treviso during Christmas and that will make for a great battle on Saturday.

From where we are, we know that it is more important to win away from home, rather than focusing on scoring four tries for bonus points.

The focus is about us matching their physicality and getting ourselves into the game. That might push us into a position to win the game.

Four points will be important, rather than thinking about making it 12 tries in three games, or anything like that.

But the lads are looking forward to Zebre and a return to the Pro12. We have to concentrate on the league now. Top priority is getting into the play-off positions and qualifying for Europe again next year.

Being in the top six is the most important thing in the Pro12. However, we have higher aspirations and getting into the top four, and the play-offs, is going to be the aim for us towards the end of the season.

If we could add another win this weekend, it would be a big boost, especially after we slipped up a couple of times in the league recently.

To bounce back is very important and we know we can do it. The last league game we played was Ulster away from home. So we know that we can win those big, physical games on the road.

As long as we keep a number of away wins coming, and look after our home form in the league, it will put us in a good position for the final standings.

The Six Nations period is so important too, but the guys will step up like they did last year, and hopefully we can keep the pressure up.

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