James Coughlan bursts through a Chris Robshaw challenge. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Munster need to beat Leinster before focusing on Clermont - James Coughlan

Can the Reds still reach the Pro12 playoffs? “Stranger things have happened,” was the response.

THE MEDIA PRESENCE at Munster’s briefing at University of Limerick was considerably large and James Coughlan was a busy man.

The Munster No.8 was one of the unsung heroes of a team effort that did for Harlequins in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Coughlan was only too happy to answer questions about Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and big-hitting James Downey while acknowledging the bloody-minded  commitment displayed by all 20 players that featured at The Stoop on Sunday.

“Something that we have been talking about is consistency,” he said. “[This] Saturday is an opportunity to show we can back up big performances.

“We couldn’t have thought of a better match than playing Leinster at home to keep that mindset and focus over the next few weeks.”

Brute force

One of the key factors in Munster’s away win was their zealous tackling and hounding of ‘Quins players across the pitch, particularly in a 30-minute period either side of half-time.

“Our physicality and intensity was something we were lacking perhaps in recent weeks,” said Coughlan. “When we did bring that physicality and intensity, and made the right decisions at vital times, we were on the right side of the result.”

Mike Brown, meet James Downey. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Coughlan added, “We knew that the first 10 minutes of the half were going to be the winning and losing of the game.

We were three points down and we managed two get a 12-point swing. They’re championship minutes. The more consistency we can get there, the better we’ll be.

By the time the Reds take to the field on Saturday, to face Leinster, they could be out of the running for a top four spot. If Scarlets can defeat league-leading Glasgow Warriors, on Friday, and get a try bonus-point, the gap will be insurmountable.

It would be tempting for coach Rob Penney to bench his star names ahead of a semi-final clash with Clermont Auvergne. Not a bit of it, argues Coughlan.

“They are a great side but we’re not going to focus on Clermont yet,” he declared. “We’ll focus on Leinster.

“There’s plenty to play for within the squad and mathematically, I think, we’re still in with a shot of the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. We’re not going to focus on Clermont yet. Leinster would beat us out the door if that happened.”

*Audio courtesy of RedFM,  follow them on Twitter @BigRedBench

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