SOME OF THE most memorable performances in rugby come about when a team reaches an almost mindless state of activity.
Pre-rehearsed patterns are carried out to a tee, supporting players run the perfect lines and the tactical details take care of themselves. Making clever in-game decisions is always necessary, but as Munster’s James Coughlan explains, an over-active brain can sometimes be dangerous.
“You leave your thinking behind on Friday, if that makes sense. You know the areas where you want to play and then working on auto-pilot you know what you want to run when you get there.
Because at this level, the more you think, the less time you get. As a result, guys get the time to close you down, get tackles in. We need to be clued into what we’re doing so we can simply concentrate physically.”
Having those tactical and technical details in the bag before Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon has been essential for Munster, mainly because the province’s players will be forced to focus so wholly on the physical challenge in Marseille.
Taking on the likes of Steffon Armitage and Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe might appear a daunting task to those on the outside, but Coughlan underlines that getting motivated for this kind of test is relatively straightforward.
“I think they’re the easy ones to prepare for, to be honest. You know that if you’re not on your game, then you’re not going to win. We need to be focused and selfish in our preparation to make sure that we can bring ourselves physically on Sunday.
“It’s going to take a massive physical effort.”
Munster will arrive in France with confidence in their ability to create scores through their multi-phase, mobile attack, but it is in defence where the real concerns lie. Toulon’s momentum can be difficult to stop when they get on the front foot.
“There are going to be plenty of times when we don’t have the ball and we’ve just got to be disciplined and keep showing up,” says Coughlan. “Getting in the line, not having guys off their feet, not making rash decisions at the breakdown, stuff like that.
Keep making tackles and try to get some line speed at them and force mistakes. As a result, you might frustrate them.”
Munster will be hundreds of miles from home in the Stade Velódrome on Sunday, but they will find solace in the travelling support. Coughlan explains that he and his teammates are intent on repaying the faith of the Red Army.
“Sometimes you wonder where people get the tickets and get the money. There’ll be plenty of people ringing in sick on Monday, with the help of God! They’re special days and for the players, we want to repay that loyalty that they show us.
“If we can look each other in the eye after the game and know that we’ve done as much as we could… but I truly am confident that if we go where we can go and do as much as we can, we’ll be on the right side of the result.”
Audio courtesy of the Big Red Bench on Cork’s Red FM.