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'We had it out with each other' - Tough Munster conversations following Leinster defeat

Johann van Graan’s charges delivered a below-par performance against a fringe Leinster team last weekend.

Chris Farrell on the ball against Leinster.
Chris Farrell on the ball against Leinster.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

CHRIS FARRELL ADMITTED yesterday there have been some tough conversations within the Munster squad in the wake of their disappointing United Rugby Championship defeat to a fringe Leinster team at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday.

Coming into the game needing a win to guarantee a home quarter-final at the end of the inaugural URC season, Johann van Graan’s charges proceeded to deliver a below-par performance that ultimately saw them losing out on a final score of 35-25. With his side already guaranteed top spot in the final standings, the Leinster 23 that Leo Cullen selected for this game bore little or no resemblance to the one that will tackle La Rochelle in the Champions Cup showpiece at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille this weekend.

Nonetheless, the Blues came away with a deserved bonus point win to leave Munster facing a last-eight trip against Ulster in Belfast on Friday week.

“We had a pretty honest assessment about how things went as a group and in our mini-groups we had it out with each other about what we thought we could have done better. We weren’t on it from the start. We were beaten physically in certain areas and we were really disappointed with our breakdown,” Farrell explained on a URC media call.

“Honestly, we probably got bullied a little bit there in the first 10 minutes and that set the tone for the rest of the game. There are a few other areas that we’re really disappointed with. We didn’t exit very well. We panicked a little bit. We felt we were really well prepared for it and that’s the disappointing thing.

“We felt like going into the game we had good knowledge of what to expect from that Leinster team. We knew where they were dangerous and we thought we were well prepared, but we didn’t act like that when the game came to it. It was something we were really disappointed with and from the conversations we’ve had today [Tuesday], we’ve taken a lot out of that.

“Hopefully we’ll have taken some learnings. It still feels a little bit raw to have lost like that, but we feel like we’ve learnt from it already and we can turn a corner now going into the end of this week. Put another couple of good training days behind us and be in a better position from where we are now.”

Given the nature of their latest reversal to Leinster [they also lost out to their arch rivals at Thomond Park on 2 April], there will inevitably be question marks over Munster’s confidence levels heading into that forthcoming duel with Ulster. However, Farrell is adamant this won’t be a factor as they look to salvage a largely frustrating campaign.

“I wouldn’t say it knocks our confidence. We 100% have to put our hands up and say we didn’t perform. Against a team like Leinster, if you aren’t at 100% you’re never going to win the game. I wouldn’t say it dents our confidence because we know how difficult we can be to play against, when we’re up around 100%.

“When we’re more clinical, when we’re decisive with what we’re doing. Playing our game plan without deviating when the pressure comes on. It’s trying to understand why that happened at the weekend is the big thing for us. I don’t think it’ll have an implication on how we go against Ulster. Hopefully between now and then we can put a few things right.”

Given two of the South African clubs – the Stormers and the Bulls – finished the regular season of the URC in the top-four, having to travel up to Kingspan Stadium in nine days’ time could hardly be regarded as a logistical headache for Munster.

In fact, the Reds find themselves coming face-to-face with an Ulster side they have already defeated home and away in this year’s competition. Yet although Tyrone native Farrell played a significant role in getting one over on his home province in Belfast last month, he can’t see it having any bearing on how their latest duel will pan out.

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“There’s not a huge amount we can take away from winning up there this year. I think it’s going to be a completely different task. It’s not a game that we can compare to what we did the last time we were up there. It’s a really hostile place to play and they’re now a team that have one front to compete on, like us,” Farrell added.

“They’ll want to right that wrong and I’d expect a reaction from them. They didn’t like being beaten by Munster in Belfast. They were disappointed with that last time. It’s going to be a huge evening up there next Friday night and one that we’re not going to shy away from.”

- Originally published at 07.45

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