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Dublin: 10°C Friday 30 October 2020

Murray's Munster must up physicality to save European season in Clermont

The Ireland scrum-half expects Clermont to operate with more ambition in attack at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Murray looks to move the ball away under the watchful eye of Fritz Lee.
Murray looks to move the ball away under the watchful eye of Fritz Lee.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MUNSTER WERE PHYSICALLY battered by Clermont last weekend in Thomond Park.

It’s not often a criticism that can be thrown at the southern province, and the sight of Anthony Foley’s men repeatedly losing the collisions and the gainline wasn’t an enjoyable one for the Munster family.

An immediate rematch with the French side gives the likes of Conor Murray a chance to redeem themselves, and save their Champions Cup campaign too.

Defeat at Stade Marcel Michelin would leave Foley’s men in an almost impossible position in Pool 1. Mastering the contact situations will be priority number one in the Auvergne this weekend, even if the tactical challenge is likely to be considerably different.

As good as Clermont were in the game, and as physical as they were, we still had areas of our game that we didn’t execute as well as we have been doing on the past few weeks and months,” says Munster scrum-half Murray.

“We’ve had to take a bit of a look at ourselves, fix a few things and marry that with a bit more physicality. We were probably beaten up a little bit. Not that we were surprised with how physical they were going to be, we just played into their hands a bit and didn’t match their physicality.

Conor Murray Murray believes Clermont will kick the ball less in France. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“That’s a huge step we’ve got to take this week, looking at training and gearing up for this. Physicality is a huge thing; it’s a basic of rugby. If you win the physical battles, you get that momentum and you’re in a good position to win the game.”

Clermont appeared relatively content with Munster having possession in a wet Thomond Park last weekend, allowing their oppressive defensive line to swallow up ball carriers at every opportunity.

But ASM on home soil are so often a changed proposition. The reductive, basic gameplan we saw in Limerick is likely to be swapped for a more ambitious running and offloading blueprint.

It’ll be a different game this weekend,” says Murray, “they’ll play a lot differently. They’ll probably kick the ball less and try and attack us a bit more. We’ve got to be ready for that and take it up a level.

“Down there with their home fans, they have a great atmosphere and it’s a great place to play rugby.

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“But we’ve got to be aware of what that does to them, gives them an extra bit of confidence and willingness to run the ball. We’ve looked at their home games and when there’s good conditions, we know what to expect.”

Conor Murray 6/12/2014 It's all on the line for Munster in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Murray points to last weekend’s first-minute try through Fritz Lee as a vital mental swing for Clermont in Thomond Park, before underlining the need for his side to start well on Sunday afternoon.

Of more encouragement for the Ireland scrum-half was the fact that Munster battled back into contention and notched a losing bonus point even after such a poor performance.

We stuck in there and had a chance to get a score, maybe a draw, towards the end. We have to take positives from it.

“The way I’m looking at it is that we didn’t perform as well as we could have, and were still within seven points of them,” continues Murray.

It remains to be seen if Munster can find their form just a week after being beaten up in Limerick, but Murray finishes with another reminder of what the province are focused on ahead of their trip to Clermont-Ferrand.

“It’s probably a mental strength or commitment you have to make. Maybe we were just a few percent off in terms of physicality and willingness to be physical against them. We know it’s got to go up a level this week.”

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Murray Kinsella

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