Monday 20 November 2017

Rassie Erasmus and CJ Stander back Peter O’Mahony’s stern reply to Reggie Corrigan 'intensity' question

CJ Stander in pensive mood during a press conference at University of Limerick yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
CJ Stander in pensive mood during a press conference at University of Limerick yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

In a different life, Rassie Erasmus and Reggie Corrigan shared the Lansdowne Road turf when South Africa came to Dublin in 1998 and blew Ireland away.

The venue looked very different on Saturday when the two old pros came face-to-face for a post-match interview at the Aviva Stadium, the former Leinster captain on duty for TG4 and the ex-Springbok the director of rugby at Munster.

Skilled in the art of diplomacy, Erasmus took a different approach to his captain when Corrigan put it to him that his team had lacked intensity in their defeat to Leinster - but the surprised, slightly annoyed look on his face offered a window into his true feelings.

Peter O'Mahony wore his affront on his sleeve and wasn't afraid to show it in a moment that gained momentum online in the hours that followed.

The days when Munster pin articles on the wall in search of motivation are in the past, but work-rate is a fundamental they pride themselves on and Corrigan's Leinster credentials probably helped stoke O'Mahony's fire.

Critique

Yesterday, CJ Stander and Erasmus were measured in their response to the critique, finding comfort in the GPS numbers that suggest their efforts were right where they wanted to and that it was, in fact, their discipline that had let them down.

"I saw the clip," Erasmus said. "That is the way Pete feels.

"Most teams go to Leinster, Northampton got 50 put on them last year... they smash most teams there so for us to go there, we experimented with a few things there, we lost by six points, conceded 11 penalties, I really don't think it was a matter of intensity, it was a matter of indiscipline.

"We look at our GPS stats and we look at the effort the players put in and it was definitely not through a lack of intensity.

"You have just lost a game and maybe not through lack intensity and somebody asks you a question like that and that is how he felt at the moment so I don't think it was a big deal, he just said what he feels.

"I don't know the guy who asked the questions and maybe he meant (it) in a nice way , I didn't hear it, but I don't understand why anyone would ask a question like that because we didn't lack intensity so, yeah, let's put that one behind us if we can."

Stander was not surprised to see the team's leader stand up for the players.

"We work close together, for the whole year, every day we're in each other's faces you know, so if we can't stand up for each other, who's going to stand up for us?" he said.

"Pete did exactly that. There's different ways to interpret the interview and different ways to go at it, but he stood up and, what we thought was right in the moment, he did it.

"We all back him. If we don't look after ourselves, who's going to look after us? That's what we stand for, our work-rate.

"We pride ourselves on our work-rate and knowledge of the game and what we want to do.

"You could look at the GPS and that (game) has been up there with most of the intensive games we've had, one of the toughest games we've played in - 'longest metres run' and high intensity effort - so if someone saw it differently then . . . People probably saw the match.

"That's part of Munster. When you arrive here it's the first thing you hear: 'We work for the jersey here, and we work hard for it'.

"We pride ourselves on the work-rate on and off the pitch. Even in the gym and all the small stuff, we make sure we're ready and going into the weekend we work hard on everything we want to do."

Of course, the incident is an entertaining sideshow in a week in which the Reds head to the south of France - the realm in which their legend was built. In the ever-changing world of European rugby, Castres remain a constant. Unfashionable, largely unheralded but always tough to beat at home.

Ronan O'Gara was required to reach into his bag of last-ditch drop-goals on their last visit in 2011 and Leinster have been there three times since and have never had it easy.

The big question this week has been who will play at out-half and Erasmus dropped a rather large hint that Tyler Bleyendaal would retain the jersey this week.

Indeed, he also suggested that JJ Hanrahan may have to make do with a starting spot with the 'A' team who play Ospreys Premiership Select in Swansea on Saturday.

"JJ has slotted in well and I think we are fortunate now, whereas at some stages last year we had to hold our breath when Tyler was injured and we only had Ian Keatley standing. So we are in a healthy position," he said. "We gave all three enough game-time to play around with him and the 'A' side is starting to play, so JJ did well Ian Keatley had a great game the previous week and we know what Tyler can do.

"So maybe (we will) give one of them an 'A' side game and keep the other one on the bench. We'll try and make the right decision there but it's nice to see JJ going the way he is going."

Hanrahan is a familiar face to most, but Erasmus is still getting to know the 25-year-old who has returned from Northampton with plenty to prove.

"He's a player with a tremendous X -factor. Somebody who doesn't need to play to a pattern," he said.

"When he came on against Cardiff he was magnificent, running lines and opportunity. I haven't worked with him under pressure as a No 10.

"When he played 10 on Saturday we were chasing the game we had got a yellow card and we were out of the game a little bit. It wasn't a game where you could dictate... he has definitely got that ability.

"If he settles into one of the positions and covers the other one as well it's a wonderful option for us to have. So hopefully we don't make him into a jack of all trades."

Irish Independent

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