Munster on a learning curve, says Rassie Erasmus

It was always going to happen, acknowledged Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus yesterday, as he reviewed his side’s weekend defeat against the Scarlets. 

While there wasn’t the slightest sign of panic about a game they led 21-3 at one stage of the first half, there was the acceptance that the second-half performance, when they conceded three tries and failed to score themselves, wasn’t acceptable.

“We were very good for 40 minutes but there were 10 or 15 second-half minutes when we conceded three tries which were terrible,” said Erasmus, pictured. “The previous week we scored three and the opposition scored two and we managed to win at the death. We have said all along that even when we have made changes that the defence stood solid.”

Making excuses for the second-half collapse clearly wasn’t part of his mindset as he pointed out the need to try new things and to experiment just a little.

“This weekend Conor (Oliver) had his first start at eight, like we did previously with Dan Goggin and by making mistakes is the only way these boys will learn,” stated Erasmus. “While you do that sometimes you are going to lose games. At this level, it’s a step up for a guy second year in the academy. And Conor played so well most of the areas.

“Dan and Francis (Saili) have only played three games together. There were a lot of little changes, Jaco at full-back again. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to try out things. We are trying to stay in the top four and trying to get a home semi-final and also there are the European quarter-finals. And if we don’t try things now, it certainly won’t be in the last three or four games or in the European games where we will try things. We have to give it a go now and sometimes you find out the hard way.”

Nevertheless, Erasmus and defence coach Jacques Nienaber will demand considerable improvement on the feeble second-half defence on show against Scarlets when they take on Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on Saturday next.

“The fact that it’s away is just one of those things, it would have been difficult, even if we won at the weekend,” Erasmus pointed out. “There are no new injuries, Robin Copeland is back into full training so we might consider him, Rory Scannell might be ready and I am not sure about Jack O’Donoghue.”

Erasmus didn’t miss a minute of the weekend’s Six Nations action but was as much taken as anyone by Italy’s tactics against England. While praising it as “innovative”, he also warned: “It needs a surprise element, it will bite you if teams know you are going to do it. We have done it every now and then, it’s almost like a lineout maul where you don’t engage. I would definitely be nervous to have it as a strategy for the full 80 minutes.”

As for suggestions that Conor Murray has emerged as a potential Lions captain, Erasmus commented: “I don’t know if Conor would like to be the captain. He’s a very down to earth guy and of course the captaincy is a great honour. I haven’t had discussions with him along those lines. I’ve only known him for seven months. Certainly with his quality as a player and with his stature and aura, (but) I’m not sure he would want that.”

Rucking ructions: Donal Lenihan on Italy’s breakdown tactic

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