Saturday 16 December 2017

Jerry Flannery: Our aim is to back up that victory with consistency

Munster scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation with Felix Jones this week. Despite Felix’s retirement from the game he’s still involved with preparing the squad Photo: Sportsfile
Munster scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation with Felix Jones this week. Despite Felix’s retirement from the game he’s still involved with preparing the squad Photo: Sportsfile

Jerry Flannery

Mathematically, we still have a small chance of qualifying for the Champions Cup knockout stages, but we are realistic that all those results and permutations are very unlikely to come true.

More than likely we are out of contention, so this game in Treviso is all about building momentum, taking another win and getting ourselves in good shape for the rest of the season.

It was great to get back to winning ways at Thomond Park. As a squad, we probably felt under the pump in the last few weeks, because we felt that we had let everyone down more than anything. We knew that a one-off win wouldn't fix everything, but it's a good start.

People were most disappointed that some of the traits you would associate with Munster Rugby were missing in the last few games, but that hard work and willingness to empty the tank for the jersey were back there again in abundance last weekend. It was a good start to rebuilding our reputation with the supporters.

Anyone involved in the game recognised that we weren't where we needed to be for the last two months. There was an onus in trying to restore some pride in the jersey last weekend and the lads went out to do that, they trained with great intensity and it came off.

From an additional leadership point of view we are fortunate to still have someone like Felix Jones in around the squad. He has a real talent around the detail of our game plan, and if that detail is nailed down, it means players can just concentrate on being physical on the field.

Despite his retirement as a player, Felix is still involved with the squad and does some extra work with the lads and is an extra pair of eyes for us at training which is massive. The fact that he is only just retired means that he is very familiar with our play and he is massively respected around the squad. He's made a huge impact.

And while the win was great we also realise it was not a perfect performance. Our set-piece was poor at times. As a team we are rarely bigger than the top teams in Europe, so we have to be really smart in how we operate our scrum and lineout. For us to be successful we need to be operating off a set-piece that can produce a 100 per cent return.


I felt we didn't react quick enough to how they were attacking us at scrum time and they picked up three easy penalties to start, but we recovered well after that.

Our execution at lineout let us down once or twice and a few small things popped up. It wasn't all down to one player, but those small errors all added up.

On the positive side, people worked hard for one another at the weekend and there was also a lot more accuracy around our breakdown work. Both Earlsey and Zeebs finished off their tries really well, and the work of Dave Foley - who I thought had a massive game for us - was key in Simon's try.

The win was a massive positive for us, but the news of BJ Botha's injury was tough on everyone. If you look at the fact that we don't have too many players over the age of 30, his experience is a big loss. He has won a World Cup, he is a seasoned pro, and has been there and done it. He is a great sounding board for the younger players, so to lose him with such a bad injury like a cruciate, is tough on everyone - especially BJ.

But injuries happen all the time and you have to have the 'next man up' mentality to cope with that. John Ryan had an absolutely outstanding game when he came in against Leicester and Mario Sagario, in the few games he has featured, has done well for us too.

And last weekend we saw our young prop Liam O'Connor make his first appearance for the province and that will really stand to him. It was a big step up for him considering that less than a year ago he only started playing senior club rugby. That experience is invaluable for him.

And while it was a good week in general, that was just one win for us. We went up to Ulster and won well, but followed it up with a bad loss in Paris. This week is all about backing up last weekend's win.

We haven't repaired all the damage that's been done over the last few months with just one game, so we have to rebuild those foundations from week to week. The next step on that journey is Treviso.

Irish Independent

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