Friday 24 November 2017

Munster won't be caught out again by early start – Coughlan

Munster's James Coughlan
Munster's James Coughlan
Donncha O'Callaghan, Munster
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

James Coughlan insists that Munster have learned from the defeat in their opening Heineken Cup game against Edinburgh and will not make the same mistakes again ahead of another early kick-off against Toulouse in the quarter-final.

Munster were beaten in Murrayfield back in October, which sparked a five-game unbeaten European run that saw them claim an all-important home quarter-final berth at Thomond Park.

Reflecting on another 1.30 start, Coughlan is adamant that given that this will be his side's fourth early kick-off in the competition this season, they are fully aware of what lies ahead.

"We probably got it wrong in the first Edinburgh game in our timing of different things in the week leading up to it and that affected the result. But I think we've drawn a lot from the experience," he said.

"It doesn't make any difference to me personally. The games are all 80 minutes long.

"But we've had a bit of experience with the early kick-offs throughout this season so that should stand to us.

"It's great that it's on a Saturday so that hopefully the supporters can celebrate properly later that evening with the right result."

Donncha O'Callaghan echoed Coughlan's sentiments in that he feels that the early kick-off time won't have any bearing on the players' mindset.

"To be honest, the only ones who it affects are the supporters. But they've been unbelievable in our early kick-offs already. I think it has led to a more family-orientated crowd. From a player's perspective, we'll be right. We'll be ready.

"I think the players actually prefer early kick-off times because there's less stewing time.

"Waiting around for 5.00 and 6.00 kick-offs can be tough."

Despite lining out for Munster almost 250 times, O'Callaghan admits that nerves are still as prevalent as they were when he first put on the famous red jersey.

"I probably suffer with nerves more than a lot of players coming up to kick-off," he said.

"From a selfish point of view, I'd play the game at half-eight in the morning if I could because all I want to do is get out there.

"We'll prepare a bit differently in the week leading up to it because we know it's an early kick-off but, for me, it's just been a case of learning to deal with it over the years."

Both players will be available for Munster over the coming weeks in their bid to maintain top spot in the Pro12 but, for Coughlan, his exclusion from the Wolfhounds squad for the game against England Saxons last weekend means that his long search for that elusive first cap goes on.

"It's out of my control," the 33-year old said – still clearly frustrated.

"I'm disappointed not to be involved but there's nothing I can do about it now.

"So my focus is on playing for Munster and making sure that I'm putting my best foot forward and trying to win trophies.

"I'm trying to concentrate on the things that I can control and getting selected for Ireland is outside of that.

"I hope the lads do really well in the Six Nations. Everyone benefits from Ireland playing well so I'm fully behind them."

Despite not being included in the Irish squad, Coughlan says that Joe Schmidt did speak to him when he trained with the squad during the autumn internationals.

"We spoke about the selection but that's been about it. Joe has told me that he's happy with how I'm playing but that he wants to look at other fellas," he said.

"It's a game of perceptions and people perceive things differently and there's just nothing you can do about that."

Coughlan's cause wasn't helped by the emergence of Robin Copeland – a player who is Munster-bound at the end of the season.

FOCUSED

Copeland, who won a starting place in the Wolfhounds side on the back of three man-of-the-match performances in the pool stages of Heineken Cup for Cardiff Blues, put in another impressive shift that saw him included in Schmidt's squad for the upcoming Six Nations games against Scotland and Wales.

But Coughlan remains focused on his own task at hand.

"It's great for him (Copeland)," he said.

"I'm sure it's a great experience and he'll learn a lot from being around quality players.

"Munster is a big club and it's always going to sign good players.

"I'm sure Robin will be looking forward to coming over here but I'll be concentrating on my own game and making sure that I'm being selected on a week-to-week basis."

Whatever happens in the Six Nations, one thing is for sure – the No 8 battle at Munster next season will be as competitive as it has ever been.

Irish Independent

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