The way Dave Kilcoyne has been charging into contact to keep his team on the front foot of late suggests he is not the sort of player used to treading carefully.
Yet with tomorrow’s return game against a Leicester Tigers side gunning for redemption after their record European defeat at Thomond Park last weekend, the Munster prop knows better than for the province to be heading gung-ho to Welford Road.
Rather than assume another Champions Cup pool win is in the bag given their dominance over the English giants last Saturday, delivering the Tigers’ first European shutout in 13 years, Munster have been striving to improve a performance that reaped four tries and a bonus point in Limerick.
They may have avenged a home defeat to the same opposition a year previously but blanking Leicester one day has led to extra work on defence with Jacques Nienaber, and an emphasis on accuracy at the breakdown in particular, as Kilcoyne and company prepare for a feisty backlash.
“We are confident but we’re not falling in love with ourselves,” Kilcoyne said. “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
“We trained very hard this week. We front-loaded the week, Monday to Wednesday. Today (Wednesday) was our D-Day (defence). Jacques’ personality filters through, he is vibrant and energetic and that is what our sessions are like. We feed off each other. They’re bitterly disappointed with how they played last week.
"They are a club steeped in tradition, especially in Europe, not too dissimilar to ourselves. They will come out with a massive edge to their performance, especially in the first 20 minutes. I’d say it will be brutal.”
Munster have proven over the last seven weeks since the death of Anthony Foley that they cope with pretty much anything that has been thrown at them.
What is more, they have found different ways to win matches as the emotion that powered them past Glasgow a day after their head coach’s funeral has been supplemented with ever-increasing efficiency, both tactical and technical, under the guidance of director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and assistants Nienaber, scrum coach Jerry Flannery and attack coach Felix Jones.
“I think we’re improving every week,” Kilcoyne said.
“People will say it was a good win at the weekend but we’ve highlighted areas that we felt we were poor in, we’ve worked really hard, we’re training with Jacques and Rassie and they are highlighting things that we weren’t efficient in at the weekend, the same with Felix and Fla, and we work as hard as we can Monday to Wednesday to rectify them. Our kick chase probably wasn’t as good as it should have been last week, our escort (of runners), so that’s an area we’ll be looking to bring in this week.
“We’ll take confidence from how we’re playing and particularly how we played against them at the weekend. But we know there are areas we can be a lot better and efficient in. We will look to improve upon those this week. We are not going over to absorb this onslaught for 20 minutes. We are going out there to win again.”
Munster’s quest for improvement cannot help but manifest itself in individual players and the Ireland loosehead, who turned 28 on Wednesday, is no exception.
Kilcoyne has been playing the best rugby of his career this season, a better scrummager now and also a key ball carrier for his team.
His 10 carries against Leicester last Saturday typifies his hunger for the ball and he featured heavily alongside equally avaricious Munster back row in the multi-phase build-up to the all-important first try, which put the home side into a 19-0 half-time lead.
Kilcoyne has also managed three tries already this season and he credited Erasmus for allowing his players to express themselves more and play to their strengths.
“Rassie has put in greats systems here, he has a real positive coaching idea with great plans for the club. Tactically, we analyse very well, we prepare very well but the best thing is that he allows us to express ourselves. That’s the best thing about him. Nobody feels constricted. It’s the other way around. You’d probably find yourself out of the team if you weren’t expressing yourself or trying things.”
Tomorrow: Welford Road, 3.15pm
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (Fra)
TV: BT Sport 2
Betting: Leicester 11/8, Munster 4/6, Draw 17/1
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