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'He's still finding his feet' - Munster backing Fekitoa to show more

Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast believes they’re on the right path.

Munster centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Munster centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

MUNSTER ATTACK COACH Mike Prendergast says new signing Malakai Fekitoa will be able to show more of his quality as he continues to settle into life with the Irish province.

The former All Blacks centre, who now plays Test rugby for his native Tonga, joined Munster from Wasps during the summer.

He has started the southern province’s first three games of the URC season but has had a frustrating time amidst Munster’s collective struggles to fire. Fekitoa has clearly been making a big effort to deliver in the red jersey and Prendergast believes there is plenty to come.

“There is yeah, absolutely,” said Prendergast. “He’s a fantastic player on his day and I’ve seen glimpses of it, absolutely I have, you see it at training and in some of the games.

“It’s just getting used to combinations which it has been over the last number of weeks, he’s still finding his feet.

“That takes a bit of time in terms of the move, the whole rugby side of things, new coaches, new players, but we definitely see aspects of his game on both sides of the ball which are exciting and we know what’s going to come down the line.”

Fekitoa’s frustration so far is a reflection of how Munster are feeling as a set-up. Their defeats against Cardiff and Dragons were followed up by a disappointing performance against Zebre even as they notched their first win of the season.

Prendergast does come across as calm in his conviction that Munster will improve over the coming weeks, but it has been a different experience for him back with his home province after joining from Racing 92 at the end of last season.

mike-prendergast Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Being among the rugby-mad locals in Limerick is certainly different to life in the French capital.

“In Paris, you can go for a coffee or go for lunch and you don’t meet anyone, and they don’t ask you any questions,” said Prendergast.

“Here, it’s a lot different and obviously I suppose we got a nice result last week, the performance wasn’t the best. When your performances overall haven’t been where people maybe expect them to be, yeah there’s a lot more to it.

“There’s more conversations around it but look, I knew that coming home. It’s a great club and it’s a great rugby city so you’ve got to embrace that as well, with the good times and with the tough times. And we know sport is like that and I know it very well, so I’m just getting used to that again.”

The Munster attack has stuttered in the opening three games, with a string of handling errors letting them down. At times, Prendergast’s men have struggled to run their rehearsed plays off set-piece because the ball has been spilled early in the passage.

He believes many of those errors are down to players having to familiarise themselves with other, given that Munster have used 41 players in three games.

“There have been individual errors, but there has been that combination thing a small bit as well.

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“To the naked eye I know it sometimes looks like a dropped pass but when you are playing with different players, different players pass the ball and run different lines, and it’s just getting the timing right and those different combinations as well. And yeah there are those individual errors.

graham-rowntree Munster boss Graham Rowntree with defence coach Denis Leamy. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“The players are the first people to realise that. We train at a high tempo with a lot of touches on the ball. As a coaching staff and as a group, we know where we want to go and this is the avenue that we’re going to go down, and we’re going to improve every day and every week by doing it.”

Prendergast believes that these Munster players have the skill level to make this new style of play work.

“Absolutely, and it would have been something that I had looked at,” he said. “You don’t just go into a club and decide to put in a type of framework and system and expect it just to click straight away.

“So, that’s an ongoing and it will be an ongoing process that we’re working on. Every day and every week, we’re trying to get better at it.”

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