Buzz-words like “discipline” and “error count” have been ringing around the Munster camp this week ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Racing 92 as the province look to put two error strewn performances in as many weeks to bed.
A high penalty count against the men in red proved costly at the Aviva Stadium in their provincial clash with Leinster. One week later against Castres, they failed to match the accuracy required to win away from home, not least in France, in the Champions Cup.
Two performances that have not been accepted as good enough by Munster standards, skipper Peter O’Mahony has had time to stew over last week’s 17-17 draw with Castres. The 28 year-old notes that they may have fallen short on the required performance, but “there were a lot of positives” to be drawn from their 13th encounter with the hard-nosed French outfit.
“I just said afterwards that we just need to take our positives from it. It’s a difficult place to come and play. It’s always difficult in France. Castres are an extremely good side. You could see they were getting stuck in to everything.
“Sometimes when it’s a drawn game you can put the head down and almost take it as a loss but I have been to France a few times and it’s a difficult, difficult place to play rugby.”
Now a former Lions Test captain, O’Mahony began his fourth Champions Cup campaign as captain last weekend and so is as well versed as anyone in the fine margins that come with taking on the cream of European rugby.
“You mess up an exit against a side like Castres or Racing or any of the teams of this calibre and immediately it’s pressure on, backfoot, defending your tryline. That’s when it’s harder to not give away penalties, thats when it’s harder to get out of there.”
The Red Army will enter Thomond Park in a positive mindset as they take on Ronan O’Gara’s Racing 92. While O’Mahony admits that his side tried to play ball in the wrong areas last weekend, he looks forward to tomorrow’s crucial encounter with the aim of being “five to ten percent sharper” than the Castres game.
“At times we felt we had to get a try from 30-40 yards out when we probably should have played the ball in behind,” O’Mahony said in Limerick this week. “It’s a hard place to exit from and you saw the way we tried to exit in the first half, and we did it quite well at times but it’s a difficult place with the wind to get out of the corner and try get out of there so it’s something we’ll have to look at.
“I don’t want to say that I’m happy with a draw but if you gave me the last 10 minutes on a video by itself, I would have been delighted with the draw. But I think as an 80 minutes performance..not that we deserved anything more but another five or six % and we probably could have changed the result.”
An array of world-class talent in former All Blacks Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko, Springbok Pat Lambie and Olympic gold-medallist Leone Nakarawa will be on display in Limerick tomorrow. Names like these, however, will not faze O’Mahony, as he assures the media that Munster fully believe that they can oust anyone in the competition.
“You have to have that kind of confidence. If you go out thinking I want to avoid this team then you’re going to be in trouble. We have big belief in ourselves, the jersey, what we stand for and every time we go out, we think we can win.
“We all love playing at home but Thomond is obviously special and it doesn’t give you the right to win and it doesn’t put any points on the board but we really enjoy playing against teams there with a full house in Europe. Supporters love it, we love it but that’s only the start of it. There’s a lot of hard work and graft and big performances and technical execution and excellence to get the win.”