Tuesday 17 September 2019

Scannell hopes attacking improvements can help Reds do themselves justice

Conor Murray and Rory Scannell look on from the sidelines during Munster training ahead of
Sunday’s clash with Saracens. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray and Rory Scannell look on from the sidelines during Munster training ahead of Sunday’s clash with Saracens. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

For the third successive season, Munster have fought tooth and nail to get themselves to a Champions Cup semi-final.

In 2017, they rode the emotion of a tumultuous campaign until they hit a brick wall in the form of Saracens.

A year later, they came back from a two-game tour of South Africa and were blown away by Racing 92's sensational start.

On Saturday, they come up against Saracens again at the Ricoh Arena and they're determined to do themselves justice with their performance.

Rory Scannell started both of those last-four matches and like all of his team-mates, he has regrets about the way they went.

Now he wants to channel that hurt into a performance in Coventry.

"Two years ago a lot of that squad hadn't been involved in a knockout European game because the previous two seasons we hadn't made it out of the group," he said.

"So, we look back on it after that and we let the pressure get to us on the day, we weren't firing really.

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"Sarries were probably at their best at the time, we found ourselves chasing the game.

"The last two years the majority of the squad have experienced those big knockout European games. Hopefully we've learnt from it.

"It's an exciting challenge ahead at the weekend, the lads can't wait to rip in now.

"You know at the time (2017) I was young breaking into that team and I wouldn't have thought about the outside stuff too much.

"But when you have 50,000 Munster supporters behind you in the Aviva and you nearly feel like you let them down, we had such good support and we didn't do them or ourselves justice.

"We just try and treat these games now like it's another game, but it's a knockout game and so we prepare the exact same as we would for another game, we try not to think about the outside stuff too much.

"We're thinking about what we can do within the group to push on to the final and hopefully get some silverware this year.

"We probably let the game go away from us last year in Bordeaux and in Dublin the year before.

"Before we knew it, we were chasing the game and you just have to get a good start in these games because before you know it the 80 minutes has passed you by and you're out of the competition.

"It sinks in pretty quickly that you're not going to get a trophy for at least another 12 months.

"So, we've experienced that now and it's not a good feeling. Hopefully this year we can push on.

"We've a good, big, fit squad and we've all the ability to do it this year."

The reinvention of Munster's attacking game has been a particular focus since Johann van Graan came in.

"It's not the finished article, but Scannell believes they have more strings to their bow this season and that can help them over the line.

"We feel we're 12 months down the line on that. Towards the end of last season our passing game let us down a bit, it's something we've been working hard at since the start of pre-season," he said.

"So, when you see things like Earlsy's (Keith Earls) try in Edinburgh coming off with a few good passes, a few good decoy lines - it's pretty pleasing.

"We do passing drills at the start of training every day as a squad.

"Even all the forwards have added that string to their bow, the tip-on passes that are really developing our attack and getting that channel a bit wider and stretching teams a bit more.

"It's something we work on a lot, we see lads work on it after training - working on those extras, whether it's kicking, passing or carrying...

"It's probably something we felt we let ourselves down on in the Leinster PRO14 semi-final last year.

"Our passing wasn't good enough, we'd too many forward passes and knock-ons. Lads having to check to catch passes, you know?

"It's probably something you'd only see catch you towards the business end of the season when you're coming up against strong opposition but it's something we've been working hard at for the year."

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