Saturday 24 February 2018

It's coaches' job to make sure there's no hangover

An elated Dave Kilcoyne following Munster’s emphatic victory over Toulouse. Photo: Sportsfile
An elated Dave Kilcoyne following Munster’s emphatic victory over Toulouse. Photo: Sportsfile

Jerry Flannery

It was a wonderful victory over Toulouse last weekend, but we know the scoreline flattered us. We have plenty of improvements to make before we face Saracens in the Champions Cup semi-final but it's all about the Guinness Pro12 until then, and first up we have Glasgow Warriors at Irish Independent Park tomorrow.

Reflecting on last week, I didn't expect a 41-16 victory, but I knew we were well capable of that. It flattered us, but I knew we could put points on them if things went right - we just weren't clinical enough up until the last ten minutes when we ground them down.

We knew Toulouse would be a hard game for us because they hadn't been going well, but they had enough big players there that they could pull off a big performance against any team in Europe. This could have been the game that turned around their season for them, and they would have geared towards it with that mindset.

The fact that they lost their star lock Richie Gray in the warm-up was a big bonus for us. He would have been doing a lot of the lineout work coming up to the game, and that must have been a huge disruption for them. We still had to act on that, however, which we did.

John Ryan scrummaged really well and he was a deserving man of the match. The scrums got messier in the second half and we maybe didn't give as good a display as we could have, but the way we turned up in the first half I was very happy.

Let's put this in context: Toulouse are the second-ranked scrummaging team in the Top14, and we all know how big a feat that is considering the size of player on show over there, and how much they focus on their scrum.


We also knew with their six-two split on the replacements bench, they were going to come try and make a brutal statement.

The first 20 minutes are always very important, as that's when the referee makes up his mind in the set-piece. That was when John really shone; he was in a good position, and on the opposite side Dave Kilcoyne made Census Johnston collapse at one stage. By and large I was happy with how things went.

Despite not fulfilling our potential against the four-time winners last weekend, it was still a very good way to go through to a quarter-final, to grind it out and still have plenty left in the tank.

I enjoyed the occasion but the coaches spent Sunday reviewing and preparing the previews on Glasgow.

You enjoy the hour or two after the game, and then you get stuck into the next challenge the following morning. I do lineout and scrum, Felix Jones does our kicking, aerial game and attack, Jacques Nienaber will do the defence, and Rassie goes through the breakdown and an overview of everything.

We have a semi-final coming up against Saracens and there is no getting away from the fact that there is a huge match on the horizon now. It will be a very interesting game and they are rightful favourites going into it with the tremendous success they've achieved in recent years, with the Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership title last season.

This is our first time at the penultimate stage for a while, and both of our teams are similar in how we play the game, but they have the experience at this stage. Still, I am really looking forward to it; we are underdogs and have nothing to lose. We just want to have a clean bill of health going into it.

That, however, doesn't mean we will take anything away from the intervening weeks in the Pro12, and there are some huge fixtures ahead there as well.

It's good to have a big team like Glasgow Warriors this week. It feels like we have played them so many times, but in fact we've just faced them three times this season.

It is all about getting the balance right: there can be a tendency from some players to have a hangover after a big victory. But that is the job of the coaches to ensure that doesn't happen.

Guys may not have made the cut for the Champions Cup quarter-final but they will be looking for a spot in the team for the semi-final. You are trying to maintain as much continuity as possible while building towards Saracens.

We are not being any way disrespectful to the Pro12 but we need to give guys game-time so they can get in the mix going forward to what's sure to be a massive game at the Aviva.

Irish Independent

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