Keith Earls is confident Munster’s game is coming together nicely as they prepare to visit English league leaders Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Munster and Ireland star returns to the European fray for an 11th season as the Heineken Champions Cup gets underway this weekend and Earls believes that despite a PRO14 derby defeat at Leinster last weekend, the province will take the right balance of encouragement and bitterness out of the 30-22 loss at Aviva Stadium.
“We are frustrated with ourselves,” Earls said of the Leinster defeat, during which he was yellow carded early and denied a try just after half-time.
“When you see the amount of chances we created, we were held up over the line twice, a couple of things didn’t go our way, and all the possession we had, we knew Leinster could be unbelievably clinical, which they were. And that is what we are trying to get to, to be like Leinster, who, when they get chances, score four out of five. That has been frustrating for us. We are working on it.
“Saturday left us both frustrated but also confident, because it is probably the best we have played back-to-back, two weeks in a row, in a long time. Between kicking and running, I think we got the balance right.” Earls, 31 last week, has been around for long enough to know the importance of not over-reacting to a defeat such as last weekend’s against the best side in Europe, particularly as it followed a record-breaking, nine-try 64-7 home win over Ulster.
“Sometimes you lose and you think it is a crisis. But look back at the Ulster game and remember how clinical we were there. Backing it up was great, albeit we didn’t take chances. But we gave the European champions a run for their money and we probably could have won the game.”
The challenge Exeter Chiefs pose will be equally testing for Munster at Sandy Park this weekend, with Earls focusing on opposite number, England international wing Jack Nowell.
“He is a phenomenal athlete, I played against him a few times now, but I think as a backline as a whole, I think they are well balanced, they can score tries from anywhere.”
They can also hold on to the ball for long periods of possession and Earls noted: “It is especially when they are playing at home. They are a great side and are tough to beat. They are six (wins) from six now in the Premiership, so the challenge is to get the ball back off them.”