Sport Rugby

Thursday 19 April 2018

'We left him alone for a few days' - Anthony Foley expects Ian Keatley to bounce back

Ian Keatley and Conor Murray share a joke at the Munster training session in Limerick yesterday
Ian Keatley and Conor Murray share a joke at the Munster training session in Limerick yesterday
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ian Keatley didn't need the crowd to tell him that he'd had a bad day at the office last Saturday night, but they went ahead and told him anyway.

Anthony Foley's job this week is to pick his out-half up off the canvas and tell him to go again. No player could be jeered off the pitch by his own fans and not be affected by the experience, but the Dubliner has a shot at redemption at Welford Road on Sunday.

Munster may be in trouble in Pool 4, but it's nothing an old-fashioned away win wouldn't solve. The cancellation of their away trip to Stade Francais means they have 20 points to play for in the competition and there were plenty of positives to take from their disappointing home loss against Leicester Tigers.

Keatley's confidence may be fragile, but Foley says it hasn't all been arms around the shoulder at UL this week. It's a professional game and the coach wants to see improvements.

"He turned up today and he knows himself things need to be better," he said.


"You know you can't go around fooling a fella or codding a fella around that and he knows. He's spoken frankly about it and he's showed up today and trained well. He needs to get on with it at well.

"I don't think he intentionally missed any of those kicks. It wasn't something he did on purpose. It happens to everyone. I've played with enough out-halves who have missed kicks.

"Down in Kinsale I watched one of the best rugby league outhalves (Kevin Sinfield) miss one in front of the posts. It is hard at times for the kickers, it's their responsibility but we try and look at it as a collective.

"As a group we have to stand together and make sure we improve our whole performance. Those kicks wouldn't have mattered if we had executed a few other things better."

Foley has kept the channels of communication open with his No 10 since his misfiring performance at Thomond Park. "We left him alone for the first few days. I've spoken to him a couple of times on the phone and in person and with all professional players they have to figure it out for themselves and then we need to get back into it. You can't mollycoddle a fella either. We need to get our work done we need to go over and play on Sunday and try and get a result," he said.

"What are we, 7/2? That's not bad odds. We need to go there and do something and there's no point in having our heads down - we need to get up and go."

Perhaps Foley's most pressing concern is the fitness of tighthead prop BJ Botha who went off with a concussion on Saturday and saw a specialist yesterday. The Springbok had just returned from a concussion suffered against Connacht and, while he is following the return to play protocols, must be considered a major doubt for Sunday's return.

That means John Ryan would start opposite Argentina legend Marcos Ayerza, with Uruguay international Mario Sagario next in line to start on the bench. Tyler Bleyendaal took a limited part in training yesterday but is rated doubtful.

Foley wants his team to cut out their mistakes in order to beat the Tigers who are currently in control at the top of the pool.

"We have gone through it. We have reviewed it. It is something that has crept into our game over the last three games basically. You go back to the Dragons game, you go back to the Connacht game," he said.

"There was opportunities in those games but we butchered them. In that green zone area, we have talked about it again.

"We have looked at how we train, how we go about training, what standards we set upon ourselves in training. Just try and eliminate it.

"You are what you do at times. Sometimes you turn a blind eye to maybe one or two things being dropped in training because you don't see the significance of it. We have to tidy up a lot of that and make sure it is taken out of our game.

"Everyone's down. It is natural for everyone to feel the world's against them. But then there is a lot of good characters in our group, and with that you know you have got to stand up and see where we are and see how we fronted up yesterday.

"We had a good meeting yesterday, and good session today. We have tomorrow off, and we meet again on Thursday, and we get ready again on Friday. And we over there, and becomes very quick.

"These guys haven't backed away. The 'A' side today were exceptional at training, they brought everything up to a standard that forced the squad for next weekend to be accurate."

Backs to the wall, the old Munster would deliver a performance. It's up to the new one to follow suit.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport