Peter O'Mahony: Munster can't copy what Saracens did to Leinster
A watching brief for the biggest weekend of the club season was not what any of the Munster players wanted, but seeing Saracens batter Leinster into submission must have enhanced the belief that they can catch their arch-rivals cold this weekend.
This time last year, Munster may have had similar feelings as Leinster returned to domestic action following another Champions Cup final, yet Racing 92 never really provided the same kind of challenge that a brutally powerful Saracens side did in Newcastle.
Despite matters off the pitch dominating the agenda in Munster at the moment, the squad have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday’s PRO14 semi-final as they look to rid themselves of that below-par performance against Benetton that got them there in the first place.
As much as Leinster are used to quickly turning the page, it’s difficult not to imagine them being somewhat mentally and physically fatigued. For that reason alone, Munster must be ready to take advantage.
It’s doubtful that Johann van Graan would have taken much, if any, comfort from analysing the manner of Saracens’ win, and neither the Munster head coach nor the club captain are naive enough to think that they can simply replicate that kind of power game.
“Yeah, look, they’re a good side,” Peter O’Mahony acknowledged.
“They were certainly two of the best teams in Europe without a shadow of a doubt, duly made the final and I don’t think we can copy what they do.
“We don’t have quite the same players but look, there’s certain areas we can certainly have a look at it.
“We’re not going to go changing the wheel either. We’ll have a game-plan we need to implement this weekend as best as possible and when we do that we’re very hard to beat, regardless of who you’re talking about. So it’s what we’re going to try and do.
“The intensity and the physicality was brutal. I thought Saracens probably played their best game of the year.
“I didn’t think Leinster played badly – 10-0 up, they were flying it, but they took their chances and to score 20 unanswered points against Leinster isn’t done, by anyone.”
Munster must beware the wounded beast, but they have enough on their own plate in trying to fine-tune their attack ahead of the inevitable backlash that is coming at the RDS.
Leinster have sufficient squad depth to freshen things up and Leo Cullen has proved that he is not shy in doing so.
Munster, on the other hand, are still searching for that complete 80-minute performance, according to O’Mahony.
“I think we’ve put parts of our game together at different times of the season, I don’t think we’ve put them all together at once,” the skipper continued.
“It’s a difficult thing to do as well, particularly when you’re playing against teams as good as Leinster.
“But I think it takes that, it takes you putting your best aspects together and for the stars to align a little bit with regard to set-piece, first-phase strike, defence, physicality.
“All these things have got to come off and that’s what you’re aiming to do every week. We haven’t quite done it. We’ve got close at times but it’s going to take probably that little bit more this week.”
Whatever hope Munster will have taken from Leinster being knocked off the top of Europe, Van Graan’s men will be even more buoyed by beating the defending PRO14 champions at home earlier this season.
Knockout rugby in Leinster’s back-yard is an altogether different challenge however, which they found out to their detriment in last season’s semi-final.
“We certainly played well at times,” O’Mahony added.
“A yellow card doesn’t help, Jean Kleyn. I think your discipline needs to be very good. You need to keep 15 guys on the pitch to be in with a shot.
“All of a sudden we were behind, and we played some good rugby. So hopefully we can start the game well and play some good rugby from the off, rather than us having to go behind and chase to play good rugby.”