MUNSTER CAPTAIN PETER O’Mahony has admitted that his side’s effort against Edinburgh in the Pool 6 Heineken Cup clash at Murrayfield fell well below the standards they have set for themselves.
The Ireland international back row also revealed that he is ready to return to the starting team, having fully recovered from the head knock he suffered against Leinster two weekends ago.
O’Mahony’s expected inclusion in the team will offer some encouragement to Rob Penney, with his side now facing a must-win situation against Gloucester at Thomond Park on Saturday evening. The apathetic and sloppy display Munster turned in against Edinburgh cannot be repeated, one which O’Mahony admitted he found it difficult to watch from the sidelines.
“Yeah, it was a tough one to take alright. I thought we trained well all week and prepared well all week. We didn’t do too much, we weren’t on our feet for too long. I thought it was good coming into the game but obviously we gave a performance that wasn’t good enough, wasn’t up to Munster standards, wasn’t up to our standards.
We’re very disappointed with it, but we’re putting it behind us now and we’ve a big week ahead of us. A big training session done there. It’s done now, we’ve to get on with it and we’ve to put it right this weekend.”
Penney was publicly vocal about his displeasure with the players mental approach against Edinburgh, and he will have demanded a vastly improved show of desire and intensity against their English visitors this weekend.
O’Mahony reveals that there have been frank discussions behind closed doors too, with all members of the squad given the chance to voice their thoughts on what happened at Murrayfield. The Munster captain also says that they cannot take a European game for granted again.
“Yeah, there was open forums, there was a floor there for fellas to talk up and have their opinion. We’d a meeting yesterday and went through it. Look, we’re a professional outfit. We’re also a very proud team, so we’re not happy. It hurt a lot, you know?
“Obviously the Heineken Cup is where we are, and it’s a big competition for us, so we’re not happy with what happened. We’ve to get on with it and we’ve a big game at home this weekend obviously back in Thomond Park for a Heineken Cup. We need everyone out, obviously the support we get in Thomond Park is second to none and it’s going to be huge for us this weekend.”
The line-out was an area of particular weakness for Munster in the loss at Murrayfield, with Edinburgh stealing four of Munster’s throws. The fact that Penney’s men had been excellent out of touch for the opening five weeks of RaboDirect Pro12 action made it all the more frustrating for O’Mahony.
However, he was quick to credit the good work of Edinburgh at the set-piece.
“Look, they’re a professional side as well, they’ve done their homework on us. We’ve had a lot of good success since the start of the season, we’ve had a couple of 100 percenters. Obviously they thought it was an area they could go after us and if they shut us down there, it would go a long way to helping them win the game.
What it all means is that Munster now face the prospect of having to win all five of their remaining pool games if they are to advance to the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup. O’Mahony says they will be treating the rest of their Pool 6 fixtures like cup games.
We’ve five cup games left is the way we’re looking at it now. It’s cup rugby from now on in. That’s the result of losing in your first game, you’re into cup rugby now, you’re into semi-final, quarter-final territory. You lose one and you’re out.”
Munster have of course found themselves in similar situations before, with last season being the most recent example. A 22-17 loss to Racing Metro in Paris on the opening day of the tournament put Penney’s men into a difficult scenario, but four wins in the remaining five games saw them scrape through to the quarter-finals as the eighth seeds.
O’Mahony correctly points out that no team has powered to Heineken Cup success after winning every single game on the way, in the current format at least. He laughs resignedly at the similarity to last season.
“It’s almost a carbon copy funnily enough. Some people say we never do it the easy way and you look back to 2006, losing to Sale in the first round. I don’t think there’s ever a team gone through it that have won all the rounds with losing, correct me if I’m wrong.
“That week is done, there’s nothing we can do about it now. It’s happened, so we’ve got to get on with it.”
The 23-year-old is right to focus on the challenge ahead, but Munster must carry some bitterness and anger from the Edinburgh game to Thomond Park with them on Saturday. Having O’Mahony back on the pitch will be a huge boost for team-mates and supporters alike.
“I felt very good even last week, but this week 100%. So I’m raring to go.”