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'Are Connacht just going to accept that that's part of their makeup or are they going to fix it?'

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella lifted the bonnet on Connacht’s embarrassing defeat to Edinburgh for The42 members.

Connacht huffed and puffed early but were blown away by the Scottish-capital club.
Connacht huffed and puffed early but were blown away by the Scottish-capital club.
Image: Craig Watson/INPHO

FOR THE FIRST time on a Monday, Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella joined Gavan Casey this morning in their new, members-exclusive podcast slot to provide the first word on the weekend’s rugby action for The42 members.

There was plenty on the lads’ plate for their maiden Monday recording: three huge wins for Ulster, Munster and Leinster; an examination of Dan McFarland’s highly exciting young guns in the backs, Craig Casey’s rocket-like passing which was a catalyst in Munster’s scintillating display, and the impending departure from Leinster of their CEO Mick Dawson, whom ‘Berch’ found a tough nut to crack at the negotiation table during his playing days.

Also discussed on this morning’s Rugby Weekly Extra were Fijian Drua’s maiden Super Rugby victory and Moana Pasifika’s bold effort in their very first outing against the table-topping Crusaders, while was Murray was especially bullish about Ireland’s chances when the conversation swung in the direction of this Saturday’s fare at Twickenham.

pjimage (14) Ulster and Munster's young scrum-halves were in flying form over the weekend. Source: INPHO

Connacht’s 56-8 defeat to fellow United Rugby Championship play-off chasers Edinburgh made for the most striking result of the weekend just gone, however. It leaves Connacht likely needing to win four of their five remaining URC fixtures in order to finish in the top eight and reach next season’s Champions Cup, a stark reality which prompted one listener to ask if Andy Friend should rest his frontline players for this season’s upcoming European two-legger with Leinster.

To listen to the pod in full today — and every Monday henceforth — become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie (use the promo code THE42RW for an additional 20% discount on an annual membership, available until midnight tonight).

In both audio and written form, here’s a slice of the discussion on Connacht’s defeat, beginning with a theory from Berch:

Bernard Jackman: “This is something I’m going to say and it’s not a criticism of the players even though it’s going to sound like it is. But sometimes, when players are let go from other provinces, it’s not their physical attributes, it’s not their skill-set — it’s their capacity to dig in mentally, right? And I’m just saying this: Connacht have a lot of players who have been let go elsewhere.

“Sometimes, that’s a real strength, and sometimes, together, they can create something really special, and I love the fact that they get the opportunity to rebuild their career there.

“But when you see a performance like you saw in Edinburgh; and it’s not every single player, but if you have five or six players who are a little bit off-tune mentally or don’t show up on a given day, you’re going to get smashed as they did.

“That’s the missing link. And that’s the one that’s hard to measure compared to tackle-completion rate or how high you can vertically jump, et cetera et cetera: the ability to throw in the absolute shit performances that they threw in on Saturday night. And as a coach, that’s disheartening because you’re always living on your wits.

I think that’s the challenge for Connacht, now: are they just going to accept that that’s part of their makeup as a playing group or are they going to fix it? Because none of the other provinces get beaten out the gate like that. And yet, Connacht have shown on their day that they can mix it with anyone.

“I’m not saying [Connacht's squad consisting partially of players let go by other provinces] is the reason. But I do know that coaches in academies see it day in, day out. We don’t see it. Maybe that’s their handicap, that’s holding them back.”

Murray Kinsella: “That’s fascinating, Gav, because before the weekend, you were almost joking saying, ‘What are Connacht looking for?’ The ‘consistency’ thing. But it is the big question mark and doubt over them.

“I was talking to Dave Fagan (Head of S&C in Leinster’s sub academy), Berch, recently who has obviously worked behind the scenes with so many of Leinster’s players, and I was asking him about Dan Sheehan and all his freaky stats and what he can do as an athlete. But he goes, ‘The most impressive bit was his resilience that I saw all the time: that the kept coming back for more, that he kept fighting.’ And he views that as probably something we don’t see at the outside until players are at the very top and producing performances every weekend.

That is what the best players do: they turn up every weekend. Maybe not a 10-out-of-10 performance but they’re always at a seven or an eight, they’re consistent, their body language doesn’t visibly show deflation when they’ve conceded a couple of tries as Connacht’s did here; and then Edinburgh just smelt blood and they were enjoying it in a way that you just don’t expect to happen in a URC battle between teams who are competing for the play-offs.

“That’s a concern for Connacht, that it has kind of kept happening, now, over a long period of time. This isn’t just a once-off blip, really, now. It’s a theme.”

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henry-immelman-celebrates-scoring-a-try Edinburgh's Henry Immelman celebrates scoring a try against Connacht. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Gavan Casey: Andy Friend said afterwards, Bernard, that they can’t simply dismiss the game but they also can’t leave it hang around their necks. It’s tricky to find the balance between the two. When you’re asking if they should just accept that this is who they are–”

Bernard: “No, no, no — I’m not saying they should accept it and I’m not saying that this (his previous theory) is the reason.

“Look, I’m biased towards Connacht. I really want them to do well. I have a lot of time for the players and coaches. But to be objective, I have to ask the question: how can that happen? Why does this happen to them every so often? And there’s been other games where you could question their consistency but it hasn’t become a car-crash like Edinburgh did, like Glasgow did.

And that’s the sign of the better teams: when they’re off, they hang in there and it’s sticky and maybe they get a point, maybe they fluke a win. Whereas when Connacht don’t have a good day, unfortunately over the last three or four years, it’s become catastrophic.

“And then you have to rebuild, everything’s in doubt, everything’s questioned, and it’s just not a good place to be in a high-performance environment where you’re having this reset very regularly.”

Rugby Weekly trio Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey have shifted from Thursdays to a new, members-exclusive podcast slot on Mondays. To listen to the lads every week, and to catch Murray and performance coach Eoin Toolan’s new podcast every Wednesday, become a member of The42: members.the42.ie. Use the promo code THE42RW for an additional 20% discount on an annual membership.

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