Ireland’s bid for Grand Slam glory is acting as a motivational tool for Billy Holland who leads Munster in Friday night’s rearranged Guinness PRO14 game against Edinburgh.
“An Irish team going over to Twickenham in search of a Grand Slam is pretty historic,” Holland explained.
“The lads will be glad to have won the Six Nations but knowing the characters in that team, they won’t be happy with that, they’ll want to write themselves into the history books with a Grand Slam. It’s going to be a very difficult task but I know they are well up to it.”
He smiled: “You don’t want to come in on Monday morning meeting Pete (O’Mahony) and the lads with the Grand Slam in their back pockets and we’re after losing over in Edinburgh.
“We have a big job for ourselves on Friday night and they have an enormous job for themselves on Saturday.
"Naturally, I’m good friends with Pete, Murr (Conor Murray), CJ (Stander), Earlsy (Keith Earls).
"It’s a quality English team with its back against the wall and every team with its back against the wall is dangerous.
"England, after losing again at the weekend are effectively backed into a corner, they must win and Ireland will desperately want to win, so it is going to be a pretty fascinating contest.”
Earls has been one of the stars of the season for both Munster and Ireland. Holland, who himself places heavy emphasis on the mental side of the game, believes Earles’ work with mentalist Keith Barry has had a huge amount to do with his outstanding form.
“Earlsy was talking about who he uses and it has clearly worked for him,” Holland asserted.
“I think he’s really fresh every week, so I don’t think he’s overdoing his training load, which he may have done over the years. You can see the results and if you ask me, he’s the form player in the northern hemisphere this year.”
Holland also believes that a successful Irish team will help to lift the standard and spirits of all teams in the country.
“Rassie (Erasmus, former Munster coach) used to talk about the Irish team that beat the All Blacks and that there were many Munster guys involved,” Holland says.
“His point was that you have to take confidence from the fact that guys who are just ahead of you at your province are beating the best players in the world.
In spite of the importance of what is set to happen at Twickenham less than 24 hours later, 32-year-old Holland acknowledges that Munster’s game at Murrayfield has to be paramount for himself and his teammates lining out against Edinburgh.
“At most we have 11 weeks left in the season and they will fly by,” he mused. “I believe momentum and winning are a habit and building that starts for us on Friday.”
Only too well aware of how Munster collapsed late last season in both competitions, Holland is satisfied that not only have they a better squad this time round but the fact that in this campaign, they have been cleverly and wisely resting players by making wholesale changes from week to week.
“It’s the top two inches are the most important part,” he insists.
“From now until the end of May, I’m not going to get any fitter, faster, stronger... the mental side is the most important.”
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