Friday 19 January 2018

'We're all fired up because there's a huge amount riding on this one'

Player Diary

Munster's James Coughlan, left, and Alex Penney compete in a maul during training ahead of tonight’s Pro12 clash against Glasgow
Munster's James Coughlan, left, and Alex Penney compete in a maul during training ahead of tonight’s Pro12 clash against Glasgow

Dave Kilcoyne

It seems that every week the stakes get higher and if we are to leave this season with any solid reward, we have to put in a top performance tonight against Glasgow.

To be honest, it's irrelevant where the game is taking place – don't get me wrong, we'd love to be playing in the home comforts of Thomond Park – but just as we saw in our most recent semi-finals against Clermont and Toulon, we can match anyone away from home.

No doubt, Glasgow's confidence is going to be high after the run they have been on and clinching the fastest bonus point of the season last weekend against Zebre. But with Munster, a lot of people are playing for different reasons and everyone wants the season to end with some silverware. It's a massive week, especially after what happened against Ulster and the team have prepared well in the last few days.

Briefly touching on last weekend, we are not a team that comes up with stupid excuses when we lose and, fair play to Ulster, they won fair and square. To put it simply, Mark Anscombe's men won most of the collisions and with us knocking on a lot of ball and making so many mistakes, what can you expect?

What really killed us was the unforced error count; we were able to get at the opposition, find good territory, but every time we came within touching distance of a score we just couldn't hold on to the ball and therefore weren't able to create the required phases in the scoring zone.

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In a season of a few frustrating days, this was right up there with the worst of them. It wasn't good enough and, in all honesty, we are pretty embarrassed by our efforts.

Despite the errors right across the board, our scrum actually went quite well. But, in saying all that, we could and should have put on a bit more pressure at certain stages. On one or two occasions Ulster were very lucky to get the ball back from their put-in and we failed to punish them.

But thankfully that game is behind us now. The loss to Ulster was terrible, but there's a much bigger match tonight. It's a simple equation: we must win.

This is actually my second trip to Scotland in a week because I was over in Edinburgh on Sunday for the Pro12 awards night. Being named on the Team of the Year meant I should have been there, but the fact that I'm also the province's Rabo ambassador meant I definitely had to be there. The award was nice, it will look good on the mantlepiece, but it would look a lot better with a nice gold medal beside it.

Before any major gongs are handed out we have a very tricky assignment tonight. Watching Glasgow last week, it shows the calibre of talent and the kind of form they are in. If they could run in their first four tries in just 17 minutes against Zebre, they are hitting the right notes.

It was great beating them in Scotstoun earlier in the year; after defending well for the last 15 minutes we pulled off the victory. Since then I've heard that a number of the Glasgow players have referenced that game as the turning point in their season.

Then they came over to Thomond Park and won, so we owe them for that loss. People might say that they caught us on the hop that day after the Toulouse game, but that's no excuse – just because a team is coming off a big win there is no reason to get beaten at home.

Consistency is the key thing there and again last weekend we let ourselves down after beating Edinburgh so emphatically two weeks ago. Really it was very similar to what happened after Toulouse so the team needs to make this right. Obviously the ideal situation would have been for us to finish top, finish the regular season on a high with a flurry of wins and to earn the right to play Glasgow at home.

But this way, it probably adds to the drama with us having to travel to Scotstoun and pull off a bit of a smash-and-grab raid. That's the reality of the situation, we slipped up and we have to deal with it.

Everyone involved with the team just wants to win. It's a must-win game if we want to play in an all-Ireland Rabo final, and with players fighting for their places on different tours there is a huge amount riding on tonight's game. At this stage it really is an aside, but the Irish touring squad to Argentina is being named after the semi-finals too so it's really fingers crossed for everyone from a Munster perspective.

Everyone is training hard to put themselves in the right position to earn their seat on the plane. Any time you get to put on the Ireland jersey it's an honour, especially for a prop. The tour to Argentina is a big one. But no one knows if they have made it yet so everyone is keen to prove what they can do when the pressure is on.

But let's be clear, the most important thing at the moment is the match this evening and the game could be won and lost anywhere, but my duty is in the scrum.

They have got a wealth of experience in the front-row and these are the types of encounters you look forward to when you're up against the likes of Murray Low, Geoff Cross and Jon Welsh. They have plenty of options in there at tight-head and they are all excellent scrummagers.

It's going to be a tough game all round. They are a dangerous outfit, but we are keen to pull one of our better performances out of the bag. It should be a cracker.

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