Munster players have spent all summer adapting to life under new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus but with the season now underway there is still room for the odd surprise, not least in the parties’ opposing reactions to the weekend home defeat.
The narrow 24-23 loss in Cork last Friday night which followed an opening-round Guinness Pro12 win at Scarlets was greeted with plenty of perspective and positive thinking from an upbeat Erasmus, somewhat at odds with the distaste experienced by many of the players, including captain Billy Holland.
The immediate aftermath of a reverse like last Friday’s is not generally a moment for calm reflection, particularly in a home dressing room yet Holland was taken aback by the reaction by Erasmus and fellow South African Jacques Nienaber, the new defence coach.
“It was kind of strange in the dressing-room, the players were more disappointed than Rassie and Jacques in there.
“We don’t like losing at home, it’s something that hurts immensely for us. There was a great crowd there on what was a brutal day so it hurts us a huge amount but they look at the positives.
“Irish fellas just turn around and look at all the negatives but they’re trying to look at young fellas being blooded against a really good Cardiff side.”
The positivity has impressed Holland and he believes an attitude adjustment is slowly taking shape, although the Corkman hopes the capacity to be self-critical is not lost from the Munster dressing room.
“It’s something (Erasmus) does really well. We’re looking at something, we concede a try and we look at the missed tackle but he can see what’s going on further back - a kick that didn’t go off the pitch, the exit that we took two or three phases to kick the ball before that. Our scrum was good tonight but a lapse in concentration, we conceded a penalty and things like that.
“He can see those things and it’s now something we’re beginning to see ourselves.
“I think it’s getting the balance, it’s something that you can’t lose – being hard on yourself – it’s how we progress. You learn from your mistakes and move forward.
“Their point of view is you take the positives out of it as well and not just beat ourselves up too much.”
Munster are set to welcome back a host of Ireland players and returnees from injury this week as they prepare to face Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade this Saturday.
Scrum-half Conor Murray and centre/wing Keith Earls are available once more under the IRFU player management programme while prop Stephen Archer has recovered from a neck problem and fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal has overcome the mild calf strain that caused him to sit out the Cardiff game.
The trip to Wales may also see club captain Peter O’Mahony return from an 11-month absence following the serious knee injury he suffered at last October’s World Cup but Erasmus was less definite about that likelihood.
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