Munster slump not a downward spiral, says Billy Holland

Munster slump not a downward spiral, says Billy Holland

A team playing at Thomond Park this Sunday in desperate need of a victory to kickstart the second half of the season?

It could easily be his own Munster side that Billy Holland is talking about but instead, the lock is referring to Ospreys, this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup visitors.

While many believe Munster’s objective of maximum points from this sixth and final Pool 4 game is a foregone conclusion, given the Welsh region’s failure to win their first five games in Europe this season, Holland sees danger in a team arriving in Limerick with nothing to lose and plenty to gain with more than half of the PRO14 campaign still ahead of them.

“Rugby can be so strange,” Holland said.

You can go into a downward spiral so quickly but you can equally come out of one with one really big performance.

“If Ospreys were to come over to Thomond Park and win in Europe, that’s going to kickstart their season massively. That’s all they need, one big win and they’re back on the horse and they’re going back into 11 games left in the PRO14, more than half the season left, so they’ve a huge amount left to play for in that competition.

“It’s a fickle business, positively and negatively. And that’s all they need is one win.”

Munster wiped the floor with Ospreys in round one, cantering to a bonus-point victory in Swansea against a team in freefall and missing its Welsh World Cup stars who had reached the semi-final just a couple of weeks earlier.

Chief among the returnees that Munster have to look out for, in Holland’s opinion, is opposite number Alun Wyn Jones, who played his first game for the Welsh region this season in last weekend’s loss at home to Saracens.

Holland believes the Ospreys captain’s presence in the line-up brings so much to the table.

“I think confidence, for one. They were in the last four of the semi-finals of the World Cup. So Alun Wyn Jones’s last game was the third/fourth place play-off and then he’s playing Sarries.

Ospreys captain Jones
Ospreys captain Jones

“He’s confident, all their Welsh players coming back are confident, they’re also just incredibly good, fit players who are trying to bring the rest of the lads who are probably a little bit down and had a tough first half of the season, bring up their confidence levels and guys like that with nothing to lose are dangerous.

“He’ll relish coming over to Thomond Park on Sunday afternoon and giving it a go and having a lash off us.”

Some might say Munster’s run of bad results (two wins in eight games that leaves them facing European elimination this weekend) puts the province in a similar position to Ospreys. Holland insisted his own phrase of “downward spiral” does not apply to the men in red, though he admitted confidence is not where it could be.

“It’s a good question. No, I don’t think we are in a downward spiral. We’ve had some poor results.

I think when you look at it from our performance point of view, some of our performances have been really good and going in the right direction.

“But other than the Ulster game, where it was a totally unacceptable performance, our performance has been really good.

“We’ve let ourselves down in the last five, ten minutes of the Sarries game and the game at the weekend. And we started badly against Leinster, you know?

“13-0 down, we bring it back to 13-6 with 35 minutes to go and we just couldn’t break them down.

“So, you know, is our confidence sky high? No, it’s not. But we know that our performances are going in the right direction.

“So it’s not fully there yet but it needs to be there at that level going to places like Paris and London. You need to be at the top of your game.”

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