Sport Munster Rugby

Friday 23 March 2018

Jerry Flannery: Rest week has given us time to work on problems

Munster scrum coach Jerry Flannery, left, strength and conditioning coach PJ Wilson, centre, and head of fitness Aled Walters share a joke before training this week
Munster scrum coach Jerry Flannery, left, strength and conditioning coach PJ Wilson, centre, and head of fitness Aled Walters share a joke before training this week

Jerry Flannery

It has been a fairly stop-start few weeks to kick off the Pro12 season but from here until the new year things get serious and there is going to be no let-up.

With no game last weekend, the week was all about preparing for Cardiff. We got the bulk of the heavy, taxing work out of the way early on so that we could focus on tapering down on the load this week to have the players as fresh as possible, and hopefully we have managed that well coming into this game.

The 16 games in 16 weeks is a significant challenge, but it is the same for everyone. We all have to get on with it now: we have the preparation work done, we knew it was coming, so we feel we are ready to tackle it.

Starting off this block of games we face a significant challenge in Cardiff Blues. They have started the season off brightly and I think it's in unstructured play that they have looked most impressive.

They've brought in Graham Steadman to their coaching team - he was our defensive coach at Munster a few years ago and he worked with us at Ireland for a while too. He had been working with Scotland since he left us.

They have spoken a lot of how he has stripped everything back and improved their defence. It'll will be good to test ourselves against his system and see if we can figure it out.


They've had a decent start to the season and have a lot of good footballers like their No 9 Tavis Knoyle, who has looked dangerous. We'll have to be on our toes and watch out for his quick tap penalties especially.

Three wins from three so far is great, it's a good place to be, but our performances have been off the mark at times. We have to go up a notch.

While it was great to get the win against a significantly weakened Glasgow, we know we have to improve our play.

We haven't looked after the ball as well as we could have when we got further up the field.

But the luxury of these two-week breaks is that you can get up to speed and spend a lot of time on the field addressing these issues.

We know that if we don't get it right now when we get into that 16-week stretch it'll be a lot more difficult to find time to rectify issues. We worked hard on that last week and hopefully we'll see a result of it going forward.

In between our preparation for Cardiff there has been a chance to watch some of the World Cup and I have really, really enjoyed it so far. It has been an incredible tournament.

Ireland showed an awful lot of character against France. You would be gutted to lose players like Paul O'Connell, Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony, but for Iain Henderson, Ian Madigan and Chris Henry to come in and play the way they did showed a lot of character.

In previous World Cups people would have panicked if we got that many injures in key positions, yet the lads who came in really stepped up. That happens because Joe Schmidt has put an awful lot of time into developing his squad - not just 15 or 20 players.

You are definitely going to lose something when you take those players out of a team, but there is such strength in depth there now. That's a huge thing for a coach.

No doubt, it is a tough time for injured players, but that's what happens in rugby. Players will always get injured.

As a coach after my first year here I struggled to come to terms with the volume of injuries to players, but this year you know you have to accept it. It's the nature of the game and you have to deal with it.

Sometimes they will be your best players too; we have a taste of that with Tommy O'Donnell and Peter O'Mahony now, but as a coach or player you just have to cope with it.

What it does is open a door for guys. The likes of Dave O'Callaghan will get a real chance here now. He has already been playing so well, he's been our best player so far this season.

Jack O'Donoghue too, he has done a great job stepping up to fill the No 7 role. He is a real student of the game and he is a very good athlete: that's a good combination.

It's tough to be down a couple of players but we're blessed with the talent we have at our disposal and the players' eagerness to step up.

Irish Independent

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