Billy Holland: We must heed French lesson

Billy Holland knows Munster will need to take heed of the French lessons learned in Castres two days ago as they look ahead to another, tougher, Gallic test on Saturday.

The province huffed and puffed at Stade Pierre Fabre on Sunday and came away with a somewhat fortunate 17-17 draw against the Top 14 strugglers. Whether the two points banked prove to be a boon or a bust to Pool 4 ambitions remains to be seen.

For now, the focus is a Racing 92 side that opened their account with a narrow defeat of Matt O’Connor’s Leicester Tigers in Paris on Saturday and one that demonstrated true grit when it last pitched up in Limerick.

Munster welcomed Racing to Thomond Park last January, just a fortnight after eviscerating the Top 14 side at their own Stade Yves-du-Manoir in a game that had been rearranged after the unexpected passing of Anthony Foley three months before.

Racing were already eliminated from the reckoning by the time they reached Ireland for the round six encounter, but Ronan O’Gara was handed the reins that week and his team responded with a gutsy display before going down 22-10.

“They have two world-class XVs,” said Holland. “They could swap out the entire team that played last weekend and they would still have a team of household names.

“That’s the quality of the opposition you’re playing against. It doesn’t get easier, it is only going to get harder. They will be difficult to play. They came at us hard in Thomond Park.

“They won’t have any fear, they know what it’s like here. We have to travel home and we have a six-day turnaround.”

Munster’s pool opener last weekend fell just a day before the first anniversary of Foley’s death and the fact it was played in France only added to the poignancy of the occasion and the still raw sense of loss. The reappearance of Racing on the radar this week will do something similar.

“We called out to Olive last week to meet her,” said Holland. “We’re in constant contact with her and the family. I feel that the emotional side was right (against Castres) and last week (against Leinster). It’s the technical stuff which is letting us down: Exits and breakdowns. Physicality and attitude-wise we were spot on and hope and expect it to be the same next weekend.”

Holland added: “It’s a game we should have won, but we could easily have lost it in the last five minutes when our discipline was very poor. But we did a lot of really good things in the previous 75 minutes. We weren’t clinical enough getting out of our half and when we got into theirs we didn’t capitalise.

“When you come to France they will throw everything at you and they did. We stood up well. We did enough to win. At this level you have to capitalise on those opportunities. We could have no qualms if we came away with a loss.

“We’ve guys who’ve only come back in the last two weeks and they lose the first time out, which is not great for that confidence. Then, with five minutes to go in France, they’re defending their line. CJ (Stander) and Peter, incredible stamina to be still defending their line.”

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