By Charlie Mulqueen
Plain speaking was the order of the day when the Munster coaching team and players assembled for their customary Monday morning meeting at the High Performance Centre in UL.
Fittingly, perhaps, the discussion was held behind closed doors but forwards coach Jerry Flannery (standing in for head coach Johann van Graan who instead will face the media for a Champions Cup press conference in Dublin tomorrow) left nobody in any doubt that all involved accepted the poverty of a performance behind the 37-13 humbling by Cardiff Blues on Friday night.
“If players have to execute a certain degree of skill and if they don’t execute a certain degree of skill and if they have to execute a tackle and they don’t do so, then someone else needs to do that job,” warned Flannery.
“I can’t put sense on it. We just weren’t good enough. We didn’t perform and I can’t say it was down to one area. The set piece definitely didn’t function as we wanted it to. Our defence didn’t perform as we wanted it to and in attack we were blunt as well.
“It was a bad day and we just have to put it right.”
Even with Joey Carbery at out-half for the entire 80 minutes and the majority of the bigger names back in action, try-scoring opportunities were few and far between.
“In attack, we got tight when we got into the opposition 22 and never collapsed them from the outside. If they had a wall of defenders, we kept carrying back in towards the ruck slowing everything down,” said Flannery.
“We’re trying to adjust things and make them right for the weekend. It’s not hard to fix in that we have a process that we’ll go through to address the things we didn’t do well and practice them during the week. We would have hoped the players knew what to do going into the Cardiff game. Maybe we need to have better clarity about the details of what we are trying to do.”
Flannery made light of the runaway nature of their win over an understrength Ospreys side in Cork the week before and admitted that fans are entitled to have serious concerns as Saturday’s clash with Ulster at Thomond Park will be followed by a visit to Leinster and an away European Cup game at Exeter before Gloucester come to Limerick.
“I can’t allay any fears because when I stand back from it, we played a Cardiff team that had lost three games”, he accepted.“Getting to half-time we felt we were in the mix at a point down. They had faded in the second half in their previous games whereas on Friday night they actually grew stronger. The second half for me was very, very disappointing. So, of course, people should be anxious with Leinster and Europe coming up. That’s why Ulster this week is so important. We have to make a statement.
There was more positive news of the injured brigade and especially scrum-half Conor Murray, about whose future there has been a lot of confusion and even a little mystery.
“He is progressing well, it’s positive and we are seeing more and more of him on the pitch,” said Flannery.
“He is beginning to start taking contact and things like that so that’s good. Keith Earls is back and returning to training this week along with Kevin O’Byrne and Billy Holland, but Rhys Marshall has injured his calf and is having a scan.
“Tyler is back on the field although it has been limited what he has been doing which makes sense. He hasn’t been doing full contact yet but is progressing. Disappointingly, though, we haven’t seen too much of Chris Farrell on the training pitch.”