Wednesday 23 January 2019

Rory Scannell: 'Castres will be really disappointed with how they played'

 

Breakthrough moment: Rory Scannell celebrates after scoring Munster’s first try against Castres last weekend. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Breakthrough moment: Rory Scannell celebrates after scoring Munster’s first try against Castres last weekend. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Rory Scannell

Unbeaten after three Champions Cup games and in top spot in the pool, I think we'd all have bitten your hand off for a three-point lead midway through the group stages.

This one might look like a runaway win, but it was very hard-earned against Castres at Thomond Park last weekend.

It was almost an ideal start to the first of the back-to-back games with them but after last season's draw over there we know how tough it will be at the home of the French champions.

It was a pretty bruising affair at the weekend. Monday was all about recovery, a bit of rest and some physio.

There wasn't a huge amount of running rugby in the match and against French sides you always expect it to be physical.

Early on it was a bit of a set-piece battle and there were a lot of collisions. It was nothing we didn't expect.

Conditions

Conditions definitely played their part. It was pretty cold, the ball was slippery and with a strong wind it made for a tough first half in particular.

It looked like the wind was right behind them first up, but Thomond Park is funny like that - the wind can play tricks on you near the big stands.

Unlike a lot of French teams, we expected that they'd have a strong kicking game, but we were well prepared for that. I think we dealt with it pretty well when they fired high ball in on top of us.

We found it a bit hard to get things going in attack before half-time, but we were in a pretty comfortable position even if we were only six points up at the break.

Thankfully the try came pretty soon after the restart which really settled us. It was great to get on the scoreboard but all the hard work was done by Conor Murray I suppose.

There were two or three of them dragging off him and luckily he got that momentum through the tackle and worked his hands free to get it away to me and I got over.

My first European try came back in the Glasgow game after 'Axel' passed away, so I was waiting a good while for my second one, and it was a great buzz.

The loss of Joey and Chris before kick-off was a blow for us, but I thought JJ and Sammy really stepped in smoothly.

We've all played lots together in training and in matches so there were no shocks, but it still could easily have thrown us. You have to be prepared for things like that, you have to adapt and get on with it.

If it had been an away game it would have been tougher I'd say. We usually only travel with one extra back, a front-row and a utility forward, so we would have had to make a few positional changes and carry an extra forward on the bench.

Thankfully it all worked out well and with JJ being named man of the match it shows how the boys slotted in seamlessly. Even last week I thought JJ had played very well.

He wasn't happy with his kicking at goal against Edinburgh, but in general I thought he had a very good game and got our backs moving well.

It was great to see him managing the game so well in a big European game, while his kicking boots were certainly on this time.

His performance was a massive part of us getting the win.

Backing that result up is the key for us now. From what I remember over there last year, we played into quite a strong wind in the first half and we struggled a bit physically.

They forced a lot of turnovers at the breakdown in that game. With their home crowd behind them it was really tough to play and in the Top 14 you can see teams struggle when they go there too. That was a big part in them becoming champions last year I'm sure.

They'll be really disappointed with how they played in Thomond and no doubt they'll be all guns blazing in front of their home crowd.

They still have a chance of getting out of the group if they can win all their games so it'll be an interesting encounter.

I think it's important for us to remember that they nearly beat us there last season. They missed a penalty with a few minutes left, before Benjamin Urdapilleta had a drop-goal attempt that just went right of the post, which would have won it for them.

In the end we were pretty lucky to come away with a share of the spoils and it proved to be a key result for us. It'll be as tight this week.

The countdown to Christmas will really start after tomorrow's game, but as a squad we have no Christmas party organised just yet. I'm sure we'll do something to mark the end of the year.

Training

I think we have an early training session on Christmas Eve and then we're off for a couple of days so I'll head home and spend it with the family.

Usually we are only off for the day and back up for a game on St Stephen's Day but this year we have more of a break and we're not playing until the 29th. That extra day or two will be brilliant.

We're sitting in a pretty good position in Europe right now and we're a couple of points behind Glasgow in the PRO14 so all in all we've had a decent start to the season.

And we're really in the thick of it now ahead of the second of the double-header games, while we'll be keen to kick on in the league by doing well in the three inter-pros.

But firstly, it would be great to get a result tomorrow and once that's behind us we'll switch focus back to the league and enjoying Christmas.

Irish Independent

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