Onus is on us as players to react positively - O'Sullivan and Munster playing party taking criticism on the chin 

O’Sullivan, 24, has started both games at No.8 and accepts the Munster players must take all the responsibility for the defeats on their shoulders but he is sure that brighter times live ahead once the team starts to click.
Onus is on us as players to react positively - O'Sullivan and Munster playing party taking criticism on the chin 

UPBEAT: Jack O'Sullivan during a Munster Rugby squad training session at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Munster may have their backs against the wall as they head into tomorrow’s home opener against Zebre Parma but Jack O’Sullivan is confident the coaching regime’s more intense approach to training will soon bring exciting times.

Two defeats in the opening two rounds of the new BKT United Rugby Championship have brought the Reds and new head coach Graham Rowntree under intense scrutiny following those away losses in Wales to Cardiff in week one and last Sunday’s shock reverse to Dragons.

Rowntree has pulled no punches since in expressing his displeasure at the error-strewn performances that have left Munster in the unusual position of welcoming Zebre to Cork’s Musgrave Park tomorrow evening with Italy’s perennial URC whipping boys enjoying a higher league position, despite also losing their opening two games.

Yet no two defeats are the same and while Munster have so far struggled to find their rhythm and translate their hard work in training onto the pitch, free-wheeling Zebre have amassed four-try bonus points in addition to losing bonus points against both Leinster and Sharks.

O’Sullivan, 24, has started both games at No.8 and accepts the Munster players must take all the responsibility for the defeats on their shoulders but he is sure that brighter times live ahead once the team starts to click.

“We’re training harder than we ever have before,” he said. “The sessions are actually more compatible, so intense the whole time and I think we’ll really start to see the effects of that now over the next few weeks. Once we start to gel, we’re still only early days and I think there’ll be exciting weeks to come.” As for the here and now, O’Sullivan and his team-mates are taking criticism from the Munster coaches on the chin.

"I think the players have to take all the onus (of responsibility), to be honest. The game plan was good last week, training was good and we felt fresh going into the game.

"It was just individual errors, trying to force things, throwing that extra-long pass when a short pass will do. We know it wasn't good enough and we need a reaction this week.” 

The Cork back-rower added: "Every day in training, the coaches are pushing us. We're trying to put our skills under pressure as much as possible. Unfortunately, maybe we've overstepped the mark in games but individually, I definitely feel I'm improving week on week and I'm really happy with the way the coaching is going.” 

O’Sullivan is particularly enjoying renewing a working relationship with new defence coach Denis Leamy, the Munster hero who joined Rowntree’s coaching ticket from Leinster during the summer having previously worked as an elite development officer in his home province.

"Growing up, he was one of my idols as a Munster back row and international back row. I actually worked a good bit with him underage, he coached me at 18s and 19s so I knew how he worked. He's intense but he's well able to have a laugh and bridge that too. I really enjoy what he brings. When he's giving you the message, he was such an impactful player himself that you really believe what he's saying and you want to go do it for him as well."

With a couple of cousins also in the squad in brothers Niall and Rory Scannell, O’Sullivan is not short of good counsel while he also has a partner for extra training in fellow back-rower Gavin Coombes.

“We live together … so we'd do a lot after training on tackle, poach - you have a plan for the week and work off that,” he said before failing to resist talking about Coombes the housemate.

“For a West Cork man, he's actually quite clean so that's a positive."

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