Cathal Noonan/INPHO Munster scrum-half Tomás O'Leary speaking to the press at UL ahead of their meeting with Ulster on Saturday.
# taking responsibility
Tomás O'Leary: Blame the players, not the coaching staff
“We have the players in Munster to win and to succeed.”

TOMÁS O’LEARY BELIEVES Munster need to deliver a rare win in Belfast on Saturday because they have let down coach Anthony Foley this season.

The 32-year old is of the opinion that the blame for equalling Munster’s worst ever run in the professional era rests firmly with the squad.

O’Leary says the players have let Foley and his management team down this season and need to get their act together if they’re to prevent a record sixth loss in a row.

History does not bode well for them as they have only won three times in 13 visits to Kingspan Stadium. Nevertheless, O’Leary it’s up to the players to sort out the situation, and that a rare win in Belfast would be the perfect way to start 2016.

“We have let them down as a player group. We have everything in place, we have a good game plan and we are creating opportunities,” said O’Leary, who returned to Munster during the summer after three seasons with London Irish.

As a player group we have certainly let our coaches down. Obviously it has been a tough few weeks because we haven’t executed on the pitch. It’s about us accepting that responsibility as players and trying to correct it.”

Munster’s last win in Ravenhill was five years ago, with last season’s 23-23 tie the first draw between the sides in the Guinness Pro12.

O’Leary, who won the last of his 24 Irish caps against England in the 2012 Six Nations, says that players do not like criticism but have to accept it when things go wrong.

“I am used to it at this stage. It’s not nice. No one likes it because unfortunately it is part of being a professional rugby player. You take the pats on the back in the good times and you have to take the kicks in the backside in the bad times.

“Since I started as a professional rugby player, especially in key positions, you are going to get a fair share of criticism from the press and supporters. It’s just part of your job, part of being a pro rugby player. You cannot take it too personally.

“Obviously I would much rather the praise but, as a playing squad, we can’t deny that we deserve a bit of criticism as the moment. We’re not getting results so it comes with the territory,” he added.

Anthony Foley James Crombie / INPHO Munster head coach Anthony Foley. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Corkman, a former All-Ireland minor hurling winner, said the loss of several Munster legends in recent years has taken its toll but he believes there’s enough talent on board to reverse the current slide.

“I think it’s a coincidence of results. Everyone will point to the players who have gone. I guess you do miss players of that ilk but I believe we have the players in Munster to win and to succeed.

For whatever reason, the last few weeks haven’t gone our way and I think it’s solely down to player performance rather than a lack of leadership or a lack of presence. I think it’s execution and performance rather than something missing from the dressing room.

O’Leary has won before in Belfast but knows that his opposite number, Ruan Pienaar, will play a key part on Saturday as Ulster bid to extend their winning run to five games.

“He has been the catalyst for Ulster’s recent pick-up in form. He’s world-class, his kicking game off both feet, the tries he sets up, he dictates the tempo of the game and himself and [Paddy] Jackson are playing particularly well together.

“He’s a key player for them and a guy we obviously have to keep an eye on,” said O’Leary.

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