Nine points clear and playing uglier than a monkey’s armpit

9 01 2011

“We’re in for a hammering next week” was the general consensus as Munster fans walked away from Musgrave park last night after beating Glasgow 22-20. It’s not unusual that Munster play badly the week before a big Heineken Cup game. In the last two seasons they lost to Ulster twice before going on the beat Treviso and Northampton (2010) and Ospreys and Sale (2009) in the Heineken Cup. This season we win our Magners League game in January and the neigh-sayers are still writing this team off.

Munster are 9 points clear at the top of the Magners League. They have won 11 from 13 games. They have been consistent, professional and clinical in some of the finishes this season. But talk to any Munster fan and they will tell you something is not right with this team.

Since the start of the season they have struggled in the set-piece. Munster of old were kings of the lineout and scrum. They provided the core of the Irish pack. A quick glance at the team-sheets from the Autumn internationals reveals that the stranglehold Munster once held on the pack positions has been loosened considerably. Hundreds of articles have written off this ‘aging’ side, I don’t agree with this. I believe the problem is more of a psychological than physical. The majority of these players have 2 x Heineken Cup winners medals, Magners League winners medal, won four Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam, Six Nations championship… Outside of a World Cup winners medal, they have won just about everything the Northern Hemisphere has to offer. How do you keep the hunger, the drive? Munster traded off the fact they regarded themselves as underdogs, always had the parish mentality, them against us, “they say we don’t have a chance so let’s go show them!” It’s been different in the last couple of seasons where they have been going into games as favourites, a title that rests uneasily on the shoulders of these players.

Even though Munster have been so consistent in the League this season, for me there has only been one game where they have shown the ‘Munster Magic’ of past. This was the last meeting between themselves and Toulon in Thomond in October. The two weeks before that game Munster were like a wounded animal, first losing to Leinster and the following week getting beaten in the Majeski by a mediocre London Irish side. Big-boys Toulon were coming to town and the neigh-sayers were out in force, we were going to get beat and the season was over before it started! Munster outscored Toulon 6 tries to 2 and played some sublime clinical rugby. We play best when we are up against it and the next two weeks are going to be as tough as it gets in the Heineken Cup. Trip to Toulon followed by London Irish in Thomond the following weekend.

We are up against it and this is where the men are separated from the boys, Who can remember travelling to the then Top14 champions Perpignan last season, The long walk to Stade Aimé Giral where we would have gladly accepted a losing bonus point before the game. Well this ‘aging’ team had other ideas!

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9 01 2011
Tweets that mention Nine points clear and playing uglier than a monkey’s armpit | ninetyninecall – rugby -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JG and others. JG said: RT @22dropout: [blog] Nine points clear and playing uglier than a monkey's armpit: http://wp.me/pNaSk-as #munster #rugby […]

10 01 2011
Michelle Vaughan

Well Conor I agree with your blog entry, they are getting the results alright but they do not seem to be gelling together.

10 01 2011
ninetyninecall

After watching Racing/Toulon last night, Toulon looked very beatable, POC coming off the bench will be a huge bonus for Munster. If they can get a good start and silence the home crowd, anything can happen!

I believe that part of the reason for the team not appearing to gel is that we have a strong squad of 30 players this season and not a core 13/14 players playing together week-in, week-out. This has been fantastic in the league, we have found the consistency that was missing, but not great for developing partnerships in key areas that were rock solid in the past.

Squad rotation definitely has it’s advantages and disadvantages!

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