Saturday 19 October 2019

We tried to reinvent the wheel playing in Dublin and it hasn't worked, admits Stander

CJ Stander of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile
CJ Stander of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If Munster were asked to draw up a list of preferences of where they would rather to go in search of their first away win of the season, Dublin would certainly not feature too high.

Having lost against Leinster on their last four visits to the capital, as well as a Champions Cup semi-final and Guinness PRO14 final last year, Dublin has not been a happy hunting ground for Munster in recent times.

That Munster have only beaten their old foes once in their back yard since 2008 remains a source of frustration but they have a chance to put that right this weekend.

The mood at their Limerick base yesterday was much more positive compared to a week ago and while no one is getting ahead of themselves following the routine victory over Ulster, there is real belief among the squad that they can make it back-to-back interpro wins by beating a formidable Leinster outfit.

"The last time we played them at the RDS, we lost by one point," said CJ Stander (right), referencing last season's PRO14 semi-final defeat.

"We almost got to a point where we could have won the game. It was one point.

"There were a lot of things; we could have gone to the posts or whatever during the game.

"But I think going to the Aviva, it's just... we train well all those weeks but I think back to the last few years, there is this mentality where we just need to go out there and make sure we play our game and we go out there and work on our plan from during the week.

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"Sometimes we went up there in the last few years and tried to reinvent the wheel and it didn't come off.

"Leinster were just unbelievable last year. We have all seen it. Anything we tried, they just put us under pressure and the game they played was exactly what we couldn't stop.

"I think just going up there, we make sure we train well this week because it's the biggest challenge we are going to have.

"If you go through our squad, the boys have played in big stadiums like that. It probably has an effect on the individuals. I would know, I have been lucky enough to play in that stadium a lot of times.

"But if you are a senior player and you see someone that needs a word or just needs encouragement to play in a stadium like that, I'm not sure if it has an impact on someone but if I can give a hand or a word somewhere, then for sure."

The suggestion at this early stage is that Leinster may not be as locked and loaded as they have been for the fixture in the past.

Stander, however, is acutely aware of Leinster's incredible strength in depth.

"It doesn't matter who or what they pick, they are always going to pitch up," the Ireland No 8 insisted.

"We've seen that when we played them at the RDS (last season). They changed a lot of players and they still produced on the day.

"It's an interpro, it doesn't matter what the expectations of the public or supporters are. We know we've to go up there and produce to give ourselves a chance in this competition and to test ourselves against the best team in Europe.

"To go up there just to play is not going to be acceptable. We play to win and we'll do the best we can.

"We have four big games, with Ulster behind us already, that are going to be massive for our season.

"It's something the coaches have planned. We spoke in pre-season, there are certain blocks, you know which games you're going to have. These next three or four are big."

With the November internationals just around the corner, this weekend's other two Irish derbies will provide Joe Schmidt with another gauge of where certain players stand in terms of potential selection.

In Stander's eyes, Munster travel to Dublin as underdogs but he believes that can help them end their poor run.

"It's something you can use as an individual going into the game," the 28-year-old added.

"They came down to Thomond Park last year and gave us a hiding. It's something players can use as individuals. It's a big rivalry. It's a place where you can lay down your marker.

"Look, we want to be consistent. Like I said, we have been on and off. It's something that we have looked at and spoken about. It's something that we know we need produce on better."

Irish Independent

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