Just 24 hours after Dave Kilcoyne capped an outstanding performance for Munster with the 78th minute try that completed a magnificent fightback against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, Kilcoyne was dropped from the national squad.
Understandably taken aback, the 28-year-old loosehead prop had a chat with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. But there was no self-pity or recrimination: “Any time you talk to Joe, you get something to work on, albeit small things. There are always areas to work on and improve your game.”
“Killer”, as he is known, hardly agrees with Schmidt’s call and will go all out to prove him wrong and in the process do what matters most to him on a weekly basis.
“I’ll deliver for Munster again this weekend and make sure we are in the best position we can be. Of course it is a big disappointment but I don’t make those decisions and obviously, I am fully concentrated on delivering for Munster down here and cannot control what happens up there. If I am included in the Irish squad on the back of that, all well and good. I am very confident in my abilities and it doesn’t really faze me.
“Hunger and desire are internal. National selection does not really interfere with that for me. It’s delivering week in, week out, for Munster, for Rassie and the coaching staff down here. I think we are on to something big and that is self-motivating enough.”
Although Kilcoyne believes his personal form was just as good during last year’s disappointing campaign, he accepts that this season’s performances so far have exceeded expectations.
“The new coaching group with Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber, Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery has completely changed the vision of the club,” he says. “I think we are going in a completely positive direction. We are probably winning games now that we would have lost before. Real belief is building in the squad.
“I thought that was very evident from the weekend. The younger lads really showed character, heart and spirit to come back and grind out a win. It would have been easy to drop the heads with the start we had.
“Rassie has brought a totally new element to Munster Rugby this year. There is a ruthless edge but it is a fair edge too. We, as players, are encouraged to play. We encourage each other. We have a saying here, ‘if it is to be, it is up to me’. If a player makes a decision, we back him and row in behind it.”
Erasmus is the boss, make no mistake about that, but a positive and fair-minded leader who makes no secret of his satisfaction at the way the coaching staff is performing. Dave Kilcoyne sees things in the same light.
“Felix (Jones) has been key in that. Ask any of the former players who remember him training, he was the hardest trainer, just like Jerry Flannery from a generation before. They are very positive people. Jacques Nienaber is an incredibly interesting character. He has huge energy about him. That definitely feeds into the way we defend. We bring a real spark to our defence and he loves that.
“Against the Ospreys, we were 17-3 down and in a huddle behind the posts. Jacques said that it was only two missed tackles and that we needed to go back to what we do. We went up from there and there were a few big impact hits and the momentum changed very quickly. There is real belief that Rassie, Jacques and the rest of the coaches have instilled in us and I think that is helping in these games where we go behind and really have to grind out a result.”
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