Improve on Zebre performance or face derby day defeat - Mike Prendergast

Munster will travel to winless Connacht on Friday confidently expecting a backlash from Andy Friend’s men after the westerners succumbed to three straight defeats on the road at the start of their BKT United Rugby Championship campaign.
Improve on Zebre performance or face derby day defeat - Mike Prendergast

WORK IN PROGRESS: Attack Coach Mike Prendergast. ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Sharpen up or expect more derby day misery in Galway, Munster coach Mike Prendergast has warned his players.

Munster will travel to winless Connacht on Friday confidently expecting a backlash from Andy Friend’s men after the westerners succumbed to three straight defeats on the road at the start of their BKT United Rugby Championship campaign.

The Reds have fared only marginally better but grabbed their first victory of the season last Saturday with a 21-5 defeat of Zebre Parma in Cork. 

It was a far from convincing performance as the new coaching ticket headed by Graham Rowntree saw their charges continue to commit basic handling errors and fail to pick up a try bonus point in a scoreless second half for the home team at Musgrave Park.

Munster attack coach Prendergast on Tuesday stressed the need for his players to improve ahead of their trip to The Sportsground against a side he feels is unlikely to be as forgiving of those errors as Zebre were last weekend.

“There were inaccuracies, and we're the first to know as a team and coaching staff, and it's something we know we need to get better at, absolutely,” Prendergast said. 

“When I speak about inaccuracies, there's a bit to do with that in terms of combinations getting used to each other, and we're implementing as much as we can, from how we want to train, to how we want to play, and that's going to take a bit of time.

“It doesn't allow excuses of not being able to catch the ball early, and that's something we spoke about and looked at on the video on Monday. Through our shapes and systems, we can see that there will potentially be opportunities if we are a bit sharper around the catch-pass element of our game. It's work in progress, and it's where we want to go, but we need to do it better.” 

Prendergast suggested a significant factor in Munster’s current woes was the enforced rotation of team selection over the first three rounds of the URC season, which began with error-strewn losses at Cardiff and Dragon.

“I don't know if it's a confidence thing. Again, this isn't looking for excuses, because we take responsibility as coaches and players, but in terms of combinations we've used 41 players in three games, we have the adjustment of players getting used to each other, new plays, new framework in place, so there's that element to it.

“We sat down with a very honest and open video (review) on Monday, and looked at those areas, and we've been working on them and putting them in place to be better for the next training and next match.” As for the challenge posed by Connacht, who have returned home from a two-game losing tour of South Africa following an opening defeat at Ulster, the Munster assistant agreed there was a backlash coming from a side which inflicted a 10-8 defeat on them in last season’s corresponding fixture, considered by many to be one of the low points of Johann van Graan’s final campaign as head coach.

“I'm sure there will be. It's a big occasion for them with the opening of their 4G pitch, so I'm sure the place will be rocking on Friday night, and they'll look at it as a good opportunity for them.

“If you look at the fixtures for them, the last few weeks have been challenging. The have had challenging games, but they've been away together, which is a good thing at the start of a season, bringing people together for two weeks. We know it'll be a big challenge. They'll come out at 100 per cent, gunning, and we will too.

“We're disappointed, we know better than anyone that we came up short over the last number of weeks. There's an element of bedding in new systems, but we know we need to get better, and that's how we're looking at this game, but we know it'll be a big challenge.” Munster are once again without nine players currently on a South African tour with Emerging Ireland and will be without Simon Zebo (calf) and Liam Coombes (hamstring) while Alex Kendellen has been stood down on the advice of an independent concussion consultant “for the upcoming BKT URC rounds” following his opening-round head injury, for which the back rower has completed his return to play protocols.

Head coach Rowntree has welcomed back to training two previously injured forwards in back-rower Gavin Coombes (groin) and lock Jean Kleyn (concussion).

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