Sunday 17 December 2017

Once-off heroics won't honour Axel's memory

Andrew Conway was one Munster player who put in a massive performance against Ulster. Picture: Sportsfile
Andrew Conway was one Munster player who put in a massive performance against Ulster. Picture: Sportsfile

Jerry Flannery

We would love to back up two stunning performances with another positive display and hopefully a victory over Ospreys tonight.

It was fantastic last weekend, and the most important thing from the Ulster game was the performance level. It would have really tainted the win over Glasgow if we had come in with a huge drop in performance.

Hangover

While there might have been an emotional hangover for a lot of the players, some of the fresh guys coming in - Andrew Conway, Jack O'Donoghue - had massive games. They really lifted the other lads and brought a freshness to the team.

After the emotionally draining build-up to the Glasgow game, it was almost like, 'How do we get them back up again?' Particularly away in Kingspan Stadium.

We just had to simplify it as much as possible.

Really it boiled down to the idea that you are doing Axel an injustice if you think you pay him tribute by just one huge performance. That's not what he would have wanted, and the players realised that.

It's not about having to win every game now, it's just about delivering consistent performances that Axel would have been proud of. A once-off performance doesn't do anything for us.

But the fact that the guys backed it up, I was incredibly proud of them - that they showed real balls and determination.

There was a lot to be happy about. The team will have to improve, because if you are playing in Europe, and you are as predictable as we were in the game I don't think you'll get the results.

However, it worked for us on the day, and given the context I was very happy with how everything transpired.

With the internationals gone with Wales, it creates a whole new aspect of unpredictability around this game at Irish Independent Park tonight. But we are expecting a top-quality side regardless.

Ospreys are carving it up in the league and in Europe. They have scored 37 tries in the Pro12 this season and they look so dangerous.

When we were analysing them we noticed that they like to attack from anywhere. They hold the ball for multiple phases and the likes of Keelan Giles are very, very dangerous.

There are a few of their players that haven't got recognised internationally yet, but they are consistently among the best players in the Pro12.

Ospreys have serious depth in their squad and despite losing a number of players they still have a strong squad available for this game, and we will have to be on our toes to prevent them from getting anything easy out there.

Also, Ireland against New Zealand is going to be a fascinating encounter in Soldier Field tomorrow.

It's great to see John Ryan going over there. He has knuckled down and worked really hard this year. He has been outstanding this season. The main thing for John is just the bit of confidence.

We would love to have more lads up there, but I think that will take time. But we are well on our way to getting there.

Special

It will be a special occasion for all involved, and there will be a big sense of novelty.

Obviously the All Blacks, being the reigning two-time World Cup winners, are overwhelming favourites to win this game again, but Ireland could spring a surprise.

Crazier things have happened and Ireland did get so close in 2013. However, saying all that, New Zealand have got even better since then. And Ireland will have to play out of their skin to stay competitive.

Irish Independent

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