Monday 19 August 2019

Player's Diary: Calf injury is a bit of a pain but I'll be fit for Leinster showdown

Rhys Marshall

JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

While most of the squad had the early part of the week off and headed away to enjoy themselves, I was back in training as I tried to sort out my latest injury problem.

Last week in training I strained a muscle in my calf, which ruled me out of the Benetton game, a most frustrating injury. It's not serious, but it came at the worst possible time.

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JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

On the Tuesday before the game I strained the muscle, but I felt fine that evening. The next morning I could hardly walk when I got out of bed so I went in for a scan.

By that afternoon I was told that I was out for the weekend's game, which is not the bloody news you want to hear in a quarter-final week.

I was going great guns but then I had a bit of a setback the Monday before last. I was back running and that went really well.

If anything it went too well because I felt a bit of discomfort in the gym afterwards. I didn't need to do that extra work, but I felt great after the run.

JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp penalty against Benetton paved Munster's path to the PRO14 semi-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Stopped

I stopped straight away and put the feet up immediately. But it was my decision to go in there, and it pissed me off a bit. It just meant I had to spend my few days off this week trying to get it right again.

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I did my other calf at the start of the year, which was a lot more serious. I've had a pretty comprehensive season of injures at this stage... 12 weeks with my hammy, a few weeks with the other calf and now this. But hey, that's all part of the job.

Thankfully there is an extra week in between the quarters and the semi, and I am very hopeful of being available for selection, which is all I can do.

I want to be in peak fitness for training on Monday. You have to be able to show your fitness on the Monday - they're the heavy days of the week and if you don't play in those you cannot put your best foot forward.

From a personal point of view, I always see those early sessions as the big ones. It's all about having confidence in your body and being sure it can do what you ask it to.

If you can get through Monday and Tuesday you'll be perfect when called upon at the weekend.

It was a tough game to miss last weekend, especially seeing the boys struggling a bit. You'd love to be able to be involved and make an impact off the bench or whatever.

Speaking to Tyler Bleyendaal, he reckons he hardly stepped back behind his own 50m line for the first 33 minutes. We put huge pressure on them.

They had 14 men in the front-line and one in the back-field and they packed the defensive line. They committed no one to the rucks and kept making their tackles and it worked for them.

They are a very good side and I hope people realise how good they are. We saw Kieran Crowley named as Coach of the Year, which he really deserved. You can see his team enjoying playing their game.

Defensively they were rock solid and it only takes one opportunity for them to strike. That's what happens when you mix Italian flare with the squad of players they have right now.

When you play a first half like that and you haven't taken your chances, it comes back to your execution and accuracy.

We'd usually split up into forwards and backs, chat through what hasn't gone too well. We knew we had put ourselves in the right position and it was just about finishing them off.

Then, after half-time, their offloading game came to the fore. Three of the top five off-loaders from the PRO14 are Benetton players and when they're on a roll they're very hard to stop.

They had a couple of great opportunities in that period of the game, which they just failed to convert.

They still put themselves in a position to win that game, but they just didn't get over the line. In the end the try never came for us last week, but good old JJ Hanrahan, he kicked the goals to win it.

The great thing about playing Leinster next is the rivalry means it always bring out the best in you.

I'm not saying it wasn't there for Benetton, but it's always special playing a Munster-Leinster derby.

Only one point separated us in last year's semi-final and games like that can be defined by a dropped pass, a missed offload or a penalty conceded.

You have a Leinster side who are playing unbelievably well, but they are beatable. We can't expect them not to be on fire, we have to meet that and better it if we want to win this competition.

I'll be a keen viewer tomorrow as they play Saracens, in what I expect to be a real intense game.

Worried

I'm not too worried about who comes through it, I will be watching it to see how Leinster deal with this Saracens side.

If they are on the same level they were when we played them Leinster will have to play really well to win.

Personally, a game like this can give me a good read as to where I'm at as a player. I found it unbelievable to come on and play against them.

Sarries have an ability to make gain-line and make tackles constantly for 80 minutes, which was incredible.

You have these fellas running down the same channels, not doing anything flash, just doing the same thing well.

Then on the other side you have a great team like Leinster, defending European and PRO14 champions. It should be a quality game.

At this level of European rugby, it's just like Test rugby, and next weekend will be exactly the same.

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