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'There was an element of frustration being stuck in a room for 24 hours a day'

Munster fullback Mike Haley was one of the 14 players and staff who had to quarantine in South Africa.

Haley started at 15 last weekend.
Haley started at 15 last weekend.

10 DAYS IN QUARANTINE in a hotel in Cape Town, a flight home to Ireland, then 10 days of self-isolation back in Limerick.

Mike Haley was one of the 14 Munster players and staff who got stuck in South Africa on their United Rugby Championship trip in November, a journey that proved to be hugely disruptive for the province.

The fullback finally got a chance to make his return to action out on the pitch last weekend against Connacht, having last played for Munster a full 11 weeks before.

That long time out of the saddle was clear as Haley made a handful of uncharacteristic errors, as did many of his team-mates.  

“What showed in my performance at the weekend was that there’s elements where there’s just a bit of rust there,” says Haley.

It’s not difficult to understand why. Haley is keen to stress Munster’s disappointment in their own performance, but he also explains how the players who recently had to isolate needed to guard against possible injury as they gradually built up to full-intensity training after completing their isolation.

Thankfully, it’s all behind Haley now and he hopes to deliver a better showing this weekend as Ulster visit Thomond Park, where Munster will be aiming to bounce back strongly from the 10-8 defeat in Galway.

Of course, Haley and co. are due to return to South Africa in March for the rescheduled games against the Bulls and the Lions.

alex-kendellen-with-mike-haley Haley at Munster training. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“You’d have ask my missus, she was stuck with two young kids at home,” says Haley when asked if he will be content to return to the Rainbow Nation.

“I’d say she had a tougher time than I did.

“Jeez, it’s nothing for me, I can’t control it. It’s above my pay grade.

“It was a tough time, having your family back here, but it’s done now and I just want to get a move on, get playing rugby again, and then whatever happens happens. It’s not for me to decide.”

Haley admits that the quarantine period in South Africa was particularly tough.

“There was an element of frustration being stuck in a room for 24 hours a day, it goes around and around in your head, ‘What’s going on here like?

“You just talk to family, go on FaceTime all the time, chat to the little lad who is coming up to three and he can talk on the phone now, which is nice.

“This missus was there, her mum came out to help and stuff. It wasn’t too bad.

“You find ways to get through, it was quite nice that we were all involved in the team meetings virtually and seeing the boys, the excitement preparing for the Wasps game was really special how it developed.

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“And then obviously they pulled out the two performances and it was massive. So, frustrating as it was, there were peaks that could drag you through it and then by the time that was sorted you were back into the fold again.”

Despite all the absences, that Wasps game in the Champions Cup was something of a high for Munster this season. The English side were hugely weakened themselves and suffered a red card in the first half.

mike-haley-with-oisin-dowling Haley hopes to have shaken off the rust for the clash with Ulster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But there was no doubting the level of intent Munster showed with ball in hand that day in Coventry, which was in sharp contrast to their unambitious display against Connacht last weekend.

“I think it all kind of depends on the game that we are playing, the way the weather is sometimes,” says Haley of the Munster attack.

“Because if you look at some of the games we had prior in the year against the Stormers and the Sharks, we had some unbelievable rugby. Scarlets away especially, we played some fantastic rugby.

“I think we just don’t put ourselves under pressure to perform a certain way every single time. We like to think of ourselves as quite fluid, we are quite adaptable. Obviously, it was a frustrating game at the weekend so we are coming under fire now but that is the way it goes sometimes.

“Sometimes you are not going to fire on all cylinders, but it doesn’t mean that we pull away or that we have to restructure everything that we do because we have shown in the past games if you go back, we have scored some fantastic tries and what we are doing is right.

“It’s not obviously going to work every single time and that showed on the weekend in quite a frustrating game.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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