Friday 24 January 2020

Variety key in derby that will define our season

Munster’s Simon Zebo in action against Dave Kilcoyne, right, and Stephen Archer during training at University of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Simon Zebo in action against Dave Kilcoyne, right, and Stephen Archer during training at University of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

Jerry Flannery

Last week was tough coming off the back of the Leinster game. We had a good look at it, and what we took out of it was that we couldn't fault the work-rate and the effort of the players.

We just didn't operate smart enough, we were too narrow. Some poor discipline and game-management cost us. It probably wasn't a great game for people to watch. We were using one-off runners all the time, which is very predictable. And Leinster's defence is very good.

The positive is we had a two-week lead-in to this Connacht game and we got an A game in between, last Thursday against Ulster. This is a huge game for us and we are looking to put things right.

Anyone who watched the Grenoble game, would see just how dangerous Connacht are. They are attacking from everywhere and they work very smart on the field. They are constantly filling the pitch. They have full width whenever they are attacking. That is going to stretch us in defence and we are going to have to be very clever.

But this is our chance now, and the next three games are season-defining for us. If we win the three games we will be where we want to be. If we don't, we won't.

We don't want our season to finish after the three games, and realistically we need to be getting something out of all three.


It's almost like a quarter-final, semi-final and final for us to earn the right to have an extended season. So that's where we stand.

The play-offs are still achievable if we can get the results we need. If we start off well we will have as good a chance as anyone. Our next three games are against sides in the top seven of the table so it's going to be a good test but it is also within our own control.

For so long this season, we have been kicking the can down the line; we have got to learn from our mistakes and do better. We don't have the luxury of five or six more games to get it right. We have got to get it right against Connacht.

Connacht are playing really expansive rugby. They have a really good work-rate off the ball in attack. They will carry the ball into the defence, and the minute they have played out of there, those players will instantly sprint to fill the width of the pitch.

We need to have discipline in our spacing in defence, and learn to come square up the pitch. Even if Connacht are going backwards initially, they are still looking to make that ground up when they get to the outside channels.

It's got to be all about the spacing, getting up the field, staying disciplined. Those type of things will have to be important for us right across our defensive line.

The breakdown is probably where we got roasted the most when Connacht beat us in Thomond Park. Denis Buckley has been really effective there for Connacht, and is a very good scrummager as well.

Each game you are playing, the battle for the dominant set-piece and the dominant breakdown is always vital.

If I was to pick out what's different about Connacht this time, it's the width that they play with and how keen they are to play from anywhere. Anyone who watched the Grenoble game would have seen Shane O'Leary cross-field kicking from anywhere on the pitch because they always have that those options in the wider channels.

It takes a lot of discipline from the defenders out there to always stay switched on. Because while you might think there is no immediate danger, if you have clocked off they will make you pay eventually.

A lot of what we are looking to do on the attack side of it is just to bring a greater variety to our game and a little less predictability about our attack. At times we can get very one-off when the pressure comes on so we just need to remain composed and be patient.

One guy carrying the ball up on his own and repeating that is making it too easy for good defences to pick off.

Much like Connacht, we need to have that same re-load that if someone is carrying the ball, the ball has gone through a few sets of hands. We need to keep defences guessing so you can create opportunities.

And then off the ball, guys are constantly offering themselves and trying to stretch defences because that's what can win you the game in the end.

Irish Independent

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