Munster geared up for cruncher with Connacht

Munster’s Denis Hurley acknowledges that rivals Connacht provide a different and ramped up rugby challenge these days.

“We have respected all these fixtures consistently over the years. We know exactly what threats Connacht bring to the table but this is probably as strong as they have been in a number of years,” Hurley said in advance of tomorrow’s Thomond Park Pro 12 clash (5.15 pm).

“Losing up (24-16) there was very disappointing, but is a bit of a carrot this weekend trying to promote ourselves to being the top team in the country. The only way we can do that is by beating teams, we owe Connacht one in many regards but I suppose our performance is what is going to be key to winning the game.

“We started badly against the Ospreys and once we drifted away on the scoreboard we struggled to get back into the game. I think this weekend we really have to mind how the discipline is. They are going to be key points in keeping us in the game. It is about putting pressure on Connacht on any parts of the game we can. The tries might come later, but it is (all) about the start.

“There are only five league games to go. Both us and Connacht are fighting for spots in the top six and then top four. We want to make sure we make the top six first of all. It is important that we are winning games to put us in contention for semi-final spots. We just have to focus from game to game. Four points are going to be very important. It is so tightly-packed between the top six or seven teams that every point really does count towards the end of the season. (the possibility of) being out of Europe, (and ultimately) our focus is on being in the semi-finals of the PRO 12.”

Hurley hopes the mistakes Munster made in Galway on New Year’s Day won’t be repeated.

“We had opportunities. We put a lot of pressure on them in the first half. I think we just let them off the hook a couple of times and they were able to get out of their backfield a little too easy without us getting points on the board.

“One or two of the tries they scored were quite well worked. I suppose we were kicking ourselves after because they were things we could have managed a lot better ourselves. It is just those little, small lapses of focus there at times. But they do have quality players and they were well able to exploit us, It is about not giving those opportunities to them this weekend.”

Hurley hopes the return of some international players will provide a boost. “It is great to have them back. Obviously, we have been functioning fairly well without them. So I hope it’s more about them being able to add, rather than us waiting for them to come back to boost the squad, having the balance right and that they are fit,healthy and ready to go. But on top of that the rest of us are giving them every opportunity as well to ease themselves back in.”


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