PLAYERS AND COACHES insist that they get as motivated for Pro12 clashes as any other games, but a trip to Meggetland a week on from playing Toulon in the Stade Vélodrome may not the most inspiring.
The early part of this week was a difficult one in the dual training bases of Cork and Limerick, with an unshakeable weight of disappointment permeating through the province’s meetings and pitch sessions.
We’re pretty low, you’d expect that,” said head coach Rob Penney midweek. “It’s been a tough few days, you’d expect that. It’s not ideal heading into a pretty tough game this weekend, but that’s the reality of the situation when you blow a game.
“You’ve got to get back on the horse.”
Indeed they do, particularly after Glasgow secured a bonus point win over Treviso last night to move six points clear of Munster in second place. While it seems likely that Gregor Townsend’s men will secure a home semi-final when they face Zebre next weekend, the possibility of usurping them is still there for Munster.
With maintaining pressure on the Glaswegians in mind, Penney appears to have made a smart call in changing 11 of his starting team for this evening’s clash with Edinburgh.
While the likes of James Cronin, JJ Hanrahan and Gerhard van den Heever will have felt as much dismay as their more established teammates last weekend, they have individual points to prove and may not have been as distracted by thoughts of Marseille in recent days.
“Everyone’s got to do it individually,” says Penney on the matter of whether his players can hit an emotional high for this game at Meggetland, before conceding that “it’s difficult and it’s one of the challenges, no doubt about it.”
With no mathematical chance of a sixth-place finish in the Pro12, and therefore a spot in next season’s Rugby Champions Cup, Edinburgh could be suggested as potentially lacking in motivation themselves.
Laidlaw leaving for Gloucester
However, the Scots’ head coach, Alan Solomons, says his side have their own mental driving force today: “It’s our last home game of the season, and it’s Greig Laidlaw’s last home match as captain before he leaves, so there is a lot to play for from our side in that respect.”
Having been hurt by Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup earlier this season, Penney has respect for what Solomons’ men can do.
“There’s a physical battle. When it turns into one of those, they’ve got a lot of strength, a lot of power and a lot of experience. The don’t have the most expansive brand, but what they do, they do very efficiently.
“If we’re not mentally prepared, which is the big challenge, then they could sting us.”
Edinburgh v Munster kicks off at 5pm at Meggetland this evening, with Marius Mitrea of the FIR refereeing.
Edinburgh: Jack Cuthbert; Tom Brown, Matt Scott, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser; Carl Bezuidenhout, Greig Laidlaw (capt.); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel; Grant Gilchrist, David Denton; Mike Coman, Tomas Leonardi, Cornell Du Preez.
Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Wicus Blauuw, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Dimitri Basilaia, Grayson Hart, Piers Francis, Sam Beard.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Gerhard van den Heever, Johne Murphy, Denis Hurley, Andrew Conway; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, John Ryan; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt.); CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, Alan Cotter, Dave Foley, James Coughlan, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Luke O’Dea.