It perhaps should not be surprising that, given the digital age in which we live, Leicester Tigers’ plan to get revenge over Munster this weekend first took shape on WhatsApp.
The Tigers were taken apart by a rampant Munster in the Champions Cup on Saturday, thumped 38-0 at a vocal Thomond Park.
However, with coach Geordan Murphy staying in Ireland to visit family, talk of how to bounce back for today’s return fixture with Munster was moved from the plane to the phone.
“We are on WhatsApp groups and phone groups,” says Murphy. “So, pretty much on Saturday evening the text messages were flying and we were already on the page for where we wanted to go the following week.”
Discussing the weekend’s match over WhatsApp is not uncommon at Leicester, with Murphy admitting the coaching staff have their own dedicated group on the messaging app where they share ideas.
However, given the nature of last week’s defeat, one would suspect messages were bouncing back and forth far more often than usual.
Indeed, it is not every week you suffer your biggest defeat in Europe and Murphy confesses that, by the time the full debrief took place back in England, the post mortem was not pretty.
“Obviously, on Saturday evening there was a feeling of huge disappointment and the guys are still hurting a little bit, they are still a little bit embarrassed,” he says.
“We came to our review on Monday and we probably could have watched hours of footage and hours of things that we did wrong. We talked about the intensity and passion that was going to be thrown at us in Thomond, but we just obviously got it wrong. I think we were 10% off in every area. It is not easy. You deal with disappointment in every walk of life and certainly this is no different, but the guys have to almost park it to a certain extent and use the lessons that they have learned from last Saturday in the game this weekend. The review was actually easy enough, the boys took it on the chin and were ready to roll again on Tuesday. We have got another opportunity to turn it round.”
Last weekend’s defeat to Munster has ramped up the pressure on Leicester to get a positive result, with some reports in the English press claiming director of rugby Richard Cockerill is fighting for his job. As part of Cockerill’s coaching setup, Murphy is also feeling the increased level of scrutiny, as they try to keep their Champions Cup campaign alive with victory at Welford Road.
However, having enjoyed an illustrious playing career for club and country, the former full-back is no stranger to pressure, even if the pain of defeat can be harder to take while watching from the stands.
“I love being part of this sport. It is a dream job,” says Murphy, who is into his fourth season as a coach at Tigers.
“There is a lot of pressure, but there has always been a lot of pressure at Leicester.
“Even as a player, when you lost, the pressure comes internally and from the expectation of the fans. It is probably magnified a little in the coaching role, but it is part and parcel of it and I’m used to it. I think it is probably tougher as a coach than as a player because as a player you just worry about your own performance. Obviously, you want the team to do well, but the nuts and bolts of it are your own performance.
“But it is the complete opposite as a coach, as you are worried about the whole picture, as opposed to your own bits and pieces.”
The immediate challenge for Leicester now, though, is trying to work out just how they can defeat the same team who comprehensively beat them just seven days ago. For, as bad as the Tigers were, Munster were equally impressive. Last Saturday was yet another win for the Irish province, who have won seven matches in a row since the death of their coach Anthony Foley. Many have put the passing of the 42-year-old as the key factor to Munster’s sudden upturn in form, but for Murphy there is more too it than that.
“I think it is too simplistic,” he says. “They have got a new coach in who has been doing a really good job with them. He has changed certain things and he is playing a really good style of football. Felix Jones is working with the backs and, speaking to the guys on the weekend; apparently, he is doing a great job. He has a huge amount of energy. The backs that they have are exciting and they are certainly playing some good football. There are some new faces in the side from last year who are playing some really good football as well.
“Last year, when we played them, they were on a run of defeats and they were in a tough place. This year, confidence is high and they are definitely a different side.”
On the face of it, even with a resurgent victory over Munster today, the odds are stacked against Leicester progressing to the Champions Cup quarter-finals. The Tigers are on four points; six adrift of leaders Munster, who also have a game in hand.
However, in a city which pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles ever last season, Murphy insists anything can happen.
“I suppose, talking about odds in Leicester is an unusual one, with Leicester City being 5,000/1,” he says, with a smile.
“It just shows, you play every game as it comes along. It will be incredibly difficult for us, we know that. We are in a very difficult group and the hope is that teams turn each other over and you can claw your way up there. It will be difficult for us to do that, but it is still achievable.”
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