Like all of the Munster supporters, the squad is very excited about tomorrow’s Champions Cup quarter-final with Edinburgh, and for sure this is the biggest game of our season so far.
It’s an occasion that everyone wants to play their part in, and with a huge crowd in attendance at Murrayfield, it promises to be a game to remember.
I think we’ll see two sides in top form facing off in this one too. We stuttered a small bit last week, but came good in the end against Zebre, while Edinburgh showed their qualities with a win against Leinster.
From a personal point of view, this week has been one that’s packed with excitement, but I’d also love if it had come a week later. My leg injury was a small bit slower to clear up than I had expected, which was very frustrating, but I’ve been back in training for a couple of weeks.
The plan for my comeback was that I’d be ready to face Zebre last weekend, but I missed the cut by a couple of days. I’m back match-available now but without game-time it’s hard to get back into the squad. Obviously I’d love to play tomorrow, it’s a massive game.
I really wanted to be involved against Zebre and to show what I could do, but even if I don’t make the cut for Scotland it was great to get back in with the lads and to be there to help with the preparations for this weekend’s game.
I was handed a watching brief against Zebre and, if we’re being honest, I think we had half an eye on the Edinburgh game – especially in the first half. We can talk all we want about focusing on the next game, but sometimes it’s very hard not to look to the big ones. In the second half I thought we managed to pull ourselves out of a hole pretty well and we finished up with five points in the end, and that’s all that matters really.
I thought that Zebre were very good for 40 minutes or so, but we allowed them to thrive and get a foothold in the game. They’re a proud side with Michael Bradley at the helm and they were always going to try their best against us. Thankfully, we sorted ourselves out and managed to grind out the win.
Reviewing the game, we were pretty happy with how our maul performed with a few tries coming from that facet of the game. It was something we had picked out in the build-up, so we were pretty happy with how that worked. We didn’t want to over-play: we wanted to do the basics of the game well and after half-time we went back and focused on our strengths. It worked out well for us in the end.
The two tries at the end from Sweets (Darren Sweetnam) and Mike (Haley) were well-worked too. Mike’s try really showed his character, I thought. A lot of players might have gone into their shell or gone missing when they make a mistake, but Mike doesn’t shirk responsibility. I thought he had an outstanding game after that spill in the first half.
Hopefully, he can produce more of the same this weekend for us because he is such a talented guy. When he got a sniff of the line he wasn’t going to be stopped and it was a great finish. He left his guy clutching at air and he stepped the last defender pretty well too for the score.
While it wasn’t the perfect 80 minutes, I’m not sure what effect that game will have on us this weekend. Zebre made it tough for us in the first half, so we are all aware of what could happen against Edinburgh if we’re not clued in.
I saw a good chunk of their win over Leinster and I thought they were pretty impressive. They looked second best when Leinster started pretty well, but Edinburgh flexed their muscles and they pulled away after that. In the end it was a healthy win.
Last weekend they played Matt Scott and James Johnstone in the centre. Scott is a big physical presence in the midfield for them and Johnstone is a dangerous attacker, who has excellent footwork and covers the ground well in defence. They are two guys that are definitely a handful and we’ll have to be on song to look after them.
I think our week has gone well though. When the international window shuts you see a lot of personalities back into the squad. You have the older, experienced guys back around the place and they are probably the most outspoken and confident guys in the group too. It’s great to have those characters around. There is a lot more people in the HPC and there is plenty of craic.
The boys are raring to go in the red shirt too. I’m sure they’re a bit frustrated after the Six Nations and the way it has gone for them so they’re mad to get back to action for Munster, which is a real positive for everyone.
There is definitely a bit of a nervous energy around in the lead-up to the game, but some lads won’t feel that until the morning of the game.
You have to park your nerves though, focus on the plan and ask yourself what the team needs you to do. If you look too far ahead you can over-think things and over-complicate matters.
You have to live in the moment and not play the game before the weekend. It’s possible to get too wound up, so your mindset is vital for these sort of games.
Everyone wants to be involved though, and not everyone can play. We’re all waiting to see what roles we have been given, whether we’re travelling or not, if we’re in the 23 or staying at home. This is the big one and we all want to play our part – whatever it is.