Dead rubber or not, this one is for the fans

Dave Kilcoyne may well be playing in a dead rubber at Thomond Park on Sunday if results elsewhere in the Heineken Champions Cup fail to fall Munster’s way but he knows how important a win over Ospreys will be, regardless of their European fate.

Dead rubber or not, this one is for the fans

Dave Kilcoyne may well be playing in a dead rubber at Thomond Park on Sunday if results elsewhere in the Heineken Champions Cup fail to fall Munster’s way but he knows how important a win over Ospreys will be, regardless of their European fate.

Munster’s defeat in Paris to Racing 92 last Sunday means the province has lost control of its own destiny in terms of qualification for the knockout stages.

With three best runners-up spots from five pools left to chase, the dream could already be over by the 12:30pm kick-off in Limerick.

A bonus-point win can bring Munster’s point tally to 16 in Pool 4 but Clermont and Ulster, the contenders in Pool 3, are already beyond Kilcoyne’s side, the runner-up from that group certain to be one of the three.

That leaves two remaining berths and with both Northampton Saints in Pool 1 and Glasgow Warriors in Pool 2 playing their round-six games on Saturday, those clubs could also knock Munster out of the equation before a ball is kicked at Thomond Park.

For Kilcoyne, who played his first Champions Cup game of the season in the 39-22 defeat having recovered from a calf injury sustained on his return from World Cup duty, that is particularly frustrating.

The loosehead prop hit the ground running at La Défense Arena with a typically robust performance that has made him a viable starter for Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations championship but despite being named in Andy Farrell’s squad on Wednesday, the focus is on Ospreys.

“It is bitterly disappointing not to be in charge of our own destiny this weekend,” the31-year-old said.

“I’m loving my rugby, I suppose, but bitterly disappointed with the loss at the weekend.

“We’re frustrated... but you have to dust yourself off quickly and get ready for a very hungry Ospreys side coming to Thomond Park on Sunday looking for a scalp.”

Kilcoyne is not the only Munster player to have been blown away by the levels of support they enjoyed in Paris last weekend and astonished by the faith shown in them ahead of this weekend’s clash with winless Ospreys, with close to 20,000 tickets already sold.

So even if Munster fail to reach the quarter-finals, the importance of a victory over the Ospreys is not lost on this squad.

“One hundred per cent,” Kilcoyne said. “Even from the weekend, you looked around and there was so much travelling support.

"I believe there are 19,000 tickets sold for this weekend. That just shows the level of support and what Munster Rugby means to the local community here.

“I’m from Ballinacurra, I’m from Limerick and I came up wanting to play for Munster.

"You live and breathe it, you go to school here dreaming of playing for them.

"When you get involved in it, you see how much it means to your family and beyond that, the wider circle, so I don’t take any convincing of how important this weekend is.

I know the city needs a bit of a lift. I thought last week’s performance was very good.

"We didn’t get the result we wanted and hopefully this week we put in a performance and get the result we want.”

That Munster have won only twice since defeating Ospreys comfortably in round one last November is not lost on Kilcoyne either and that is a further motivation to repay the supporters.

“It’s not (acceptable). I try and look at performance probably more than results. You try and look at the process. Two out of eight isn’t good.

“We have to find solutions now. We did that in the review meeting.

“We looked at the areas we need to be better in and we really need to target a big performance this weekend.

"Without sounding clichéd, it really is one for the fans, we’ve got to show them just how much their support and the travelling support meant this weekend and show them how hungry we are to play for the province.”

Chief among the discussion points in that Tuesday morning review earlier this week was the way Munster fell away in the final quarter against Racing, whose three late tries gave them a comfortable-looking margin of victory when the visitors had led 22-20 after 70 minutes.

“Just not finishing the game strong was one of the main ones. Defence was quite positive, quite good.

"Our attack was quite good, our set-piece, our scrum, the maul was good, it was just closing out the last 15 minutes of the game.

"It is an area we targeted at improvement, so that will be a certain work-on this week and hopefully we won’t have to be chasing a game by the last 10 minutes.”

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