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‘We owe it to our fans to deliver a performance’

Billy Holland insists Munster are not on a downward spiral despite losing yet again last Sunday.

Holland is backing Munster to bounce back.
Holland is backing Munster to bounce back.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

EIGHT GAMES; TWO wins. If you look at it coldly, there’s only one direction this graph is going.

But Billy Holland isn’t convinced his team is on the slide. A one club man – first as a fan, since 2007 as a player, he’s aware of his responsibility to uphold a legacy. And then there’s the number of candles on his birthday cake. At 34, there may not be too many European days left in him. It’s one more reason why he wants to make Sunday’s game count.

The only thing that matters for us is winning and showing people how much this competition means to us,” Holland said. “We want to do ourselves justice, and show people the pride we have in this competition.

“What happened last Sunday was incredibly frustrating; to be leading after 71 minutes against Racing and then come out at the back with what looks like a battering, is something that hurts. We need to get to that (Racing’s) level.

munsters-billy-holland-wins-a-line-out-from-racing-92s-bernard-le-roux Munster were leading Racing after 71 minutes. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“And we have every confidence we can. Look at the facts, we have played Racing and Sarries away in the last month – one side has been to two finals in the last four seasons, the other team are defending champions. We, ourselves, have been semi-finalists in Europe for the last three seasons. We have got better. Okay we are still not beating them (Saracens and Racing) but we are going in the right direction.”

Cynics would say they are not; that there are a fair few levels in European club rugby and Munster are stuck on the second floor. And that yes, they were unfortunate with the draw this year, but that even if fate had have been kinder at the pool stage, that eventually they’d have come unstuck when they ran into the elite.

And sure enough in the last month, they’ve travelled to Saracens and Racing in hope but ended up down and out in Paris and London.

I don’t think we are on a downward spiral,” Holland said. “Yes, we’ve had some poor results but some of our performances have been really good and going in the right direction.

“Other than the Ulster game, where it was totally unacceptable from us, we have played well for the bulk of games. Unfortunately, we let ourselves down in the last five to 10 minutes of the Sarries’ game and also at the game at the weekend.

“Is our confidence sky high? The answer to that is no, it’s not. But we also know we are going in the right direction. We can get there and you need to once you go to places like Paris and London. You need to be at the top of your game.”

That leads into Sunday. Over 20,000 tickets have already been sold for the Ospreys game and there’s a responsibility that comes with that.

“For us it is genuinely important to put in a big performance in front of our home fans,” Holland said. “A couple of years ago we were out after round four of the competition, but we still put in a couple of big performances and won here against Stade. Our fans are unbelievable; they follow us everywhere we play.

“It was a hard walk at the end of the game last Sunday; going around the U arena, seeing all those Munster fans, disappointed we hadn’t delivered a win for them.

“We are our own biggest critics and hold ourselves to high standards. We went to Paris last weekend to win. Put it this way, it was a long journey home.”

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