Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
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Munster wary of pitfalls after magnificent 7 wins
Peter O’Mahony was critical of himself and some aspects of his team’s performance despite the 38 – 0 win over Leicester.

AFTER INFLICTING THE heaviest-ever European trouncing on Leicester Tigers – a club who they have stood toe-to-toe with often enough to build a real running rivalry – Munster would not for a second flex their muscles, admire the work or rub Tiger noses in it.

That is partly down to the quick turnaround to the return leg -’same time next week in Welford Road, lads? 3.15? Yeah, it’s on‘ – but it’s also testament to the intense focus built into Rassie Erasmus’ side.

There is emotion and passion, of course, and Munster have won all seven games they’ve played since the tragic death of Anthony Foley. However, those feelings are being channelled in all the right areas. Munster don’t look like a side running out of emotional fuel because they play with a precision and intelligence to complement the attitude and intensity.

And yet, within an hour of claiming a seventh-straight win (a run that includes the win over the Maori All Blacks) captain Peter O’Mahony was setting the tone like a man who hadn’t tasted victory in a long, long time. The Corkman is probably wise not to let his guard down with Tigers and two clashes with Racing 92 among a pivotal run of six games in the six weeks ahead.

“It’s a massive block for us, with the Racing (rescheduled) game thrown in away as well. It’s really not in this group’s nature to be looking down the line, you just get caught out,” said O’Mahony.

“We’re literally training session by training session, week by week, very week-focused.

“Look, we’ve been here before, we’ve won six out of six Heineken Cup pool games and then lost quarter-finals. You’ve really got to live in the week, things can happen, things can go against you, all you have to worry about is the week you’re going into and the team that you’re up against that week. With the group we have, if you start looking down the line you’ll be turned over, especially against sides like Leicester.”

Peter O’Mahony Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Tigers, you have to expect, will not look as toothless as Munster made them seem in Thomond Park. Much like Leinster and Northampton, it suited both coaches to point to previous editions of their back-to-back meetings to give either caution or hope to their side. But there’s no escaping the simple and incredibly effective psychology of a team playing for pride on home soil.

“They’ll be hurting next week. They’ll be mad to get us over there and get stuck into us. It’s a massive week for the club and this group of people,” add O’Mahony, who has already pondered some cold hard critiques of his own team to ensure nobody will be compacent going back to training today.

“Our breakdown was light, we didn’t put enough numbers in and they caught us in the second half when they were under a bit more pressure and they went after us in our breakdown.

“We’d a couple of turnovers, they got a bit of momentum from the maul, so maul defence (is an area to improve).

We were a bit lateral in our carry, particularly me, I was caught a couple of times going over. So there is plenty of work for us to do.

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“I know it was nil, but defensively we fell off a few,” continues O’Mahony, perhaps exaggerating, given the final tackle count read 85 completed from 87 attempts.

“You’re always looking to improve and move on. That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s how we’ve been grinding them out, learning from things and not leaving them bite us a few weeks later.

“There is no point in fixing them one week and have them bite you a few weeks later. If we can keep doing that, we can stay in the right direction.”

All eyes on Welford Road then.

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