Dave Kilcoyne and Munster pack brace themselves for a Gloucester backlash
English side will respond to last week’s humilation at the hands of Saracens
Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne in action against Perpignan: the prop knows Gloucester will produce a performance in front of their fans. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Dave Kilcoyne raises an eyebrow at the suggestion he might empathise with the Gloucester pack, which suffered the ultimate indignity of being shoved off the ball by a seven-man Saracens counterforce last Saturday.
There may be a confederacy of sorts between all frontrow practitioners but the Munster loosehead knows full well how the English side will respond to last week’s humiliation.
“I certainly wouldn’t be feeling their pain because I know they are not going to be the same Gloucester pack that played that week. I am sure they are feeling a bit embarrassed by that loss at home.
“Their tighthead [Rupert Harden] is back this week.They are going to be doing everything in their power to remedy that, so in terms of their scrum, I can guarantee you they are going to be doing a lot of live scrummaging this week and it will be an area they will be putting a lot of focus on and making sure it is right this week for a home game.”
If the precise and brutal art of scrummaging is underpinned by a kind of psychological warfare, then every prop can refer to a bad day on the field. When eight forwards are shoved off the ball by seven, it is surely because they have been bullied mentally as well as physically?
On top mentally
“Well, it can be a physical thing, but certainly if a team is on top mentally, that gets into fellas’ heads.”
Asked to produce a comparable experience, Kilcoyne immediately recalls a Munster A game in Bristol.
“It was a couple of years ago and we were fairly under the pump. It is not a good place to be. Paul Mc (McCarthy) was the scrum coach at the time. We just sat down and came up with a remedy for it. You would be surprised that small adjustments to key areas can make a huge difference the following week. It was more of a technical thing that day.”
“But physically, yeah, that can happen,” he continues.
“And Gloucester are a side not too dissimilar to us. They are a proud side and probably steeped in tradition. After suffering such a bad defeat at home, they are going to be gunning this week to produce a performance to lift their home fans. When you have a loss that bad at home, everything changes. It is all into next week’s performance.”
It shouldn’t be overlooked that both clubs are coming off a defeat. Munster’s loss to Ulster in the RaboDirect has left them with plenty to mull over. Kilcoyne offers perhaps the most relaxed response to the query as to why Munster can be so unreadable these days. For a generation of rugby fans who became accustomed to Munster’s ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ reliability, the wildly varying nature of their play is bewildering.
“We have a game plan we try to play to,” Kilcoyne says evenly, “sometimes people focus too much that we are trying to play too wide or whatever. It is down to us not taking the options that present themselves in front of us. We have a game plan that tries to explore space and it is up to the players to take those options. When we are inaccurate in those options that is when our game plan falters.”
And he argues there has been significant advancement on the problems which dogged the team last season – particularly in the habit they were developing of running the ball into touch. “We were conceding a lot of ball that way. It was an area we tried to fix.”
Since making his Heineken Cup debut against Racing Metro in October 2012, the Limerick man has become a regular face in the Munster frontrow. Six Nations involvement followed last year and omission from the squad for the autumn internationals left him “bitterly disappointed.”
Excelling for Munster is the only way to play himself back into the Irish squad but under Rob Penney’s liberal selection policy, nailing down a place for Munster is no mean feat.
“I don’t look to Ireland or other players. I just look to control what I can control and try and keep improving as much as I can as a player. If that comes on the back of good performances with Munster then so be it.”
So feeling Gloucester’s pain?
Maybe after the match.