Going out in the Pro12 semi-final will mean a wash-out of a season for Munster, Ulster or Leinster
No matter how well any of the Irish provinces have played, this is no weekend for it all to end
Glasgow Warriors have won their last eight games in a row, including beating Munster at Thomond Park last month. photograph: inpho
The season is going to end this weekend for a couple of teams and by the middle of next week their players are going to be sitting around wondering where it all went wrong. The semi-finals of the Rabo are a terrible place to finish up – at least if you make the final and end up getting beaten, you gave yourself a shot at a trophy. To go out in the semi-final just leaves you feeling annoyed about the way the season went.
Take Munster, for example. If they lose in Glasgow on Friday night, then it will mean a season that had been going so well just ended with a whimper. At the start of March, they were still in the Heineken Cup and stood on top of the Rabo table having only lost two games. Between the two competitions, they’ve lost five games out of their last nine since then.
Part of it obviously was trying to keep going on two fronts at the same time. A bit like Liverpool in the Premiership, a team like Glasgow have been able to concentrate on the Rabo without any European distractions. Every week since the Six Nations, they’ve been able to work together consistently without any real disruption to their squad.
Munster haven’t had that luxury , neither have Ulster or Leinster, but we’ll get onto them in a minute – and it has really tested their resources. The simple truth is that they just don’t have the depth at the minute to be able to compete properly in both competitions.
The deflation after going out of the Heineken has played a part too. Even when I was playing, switching focus back to the league after going out of Europe was always difficult. That’s probably even more the case now, especially in a season Munster were top of the league in March and pretty much guaranteed a spot in the play-offs from a good distance out.
The poor results in recent weeks just go to show that you will only get away with playing poorly for so long. You can scrape through matches, you can get a bit of luck but eventually over the course of a league, you will be found wanting.
Peaked too early
Teams who win competitions peak at this time of year and by the look of Munster recently, they peaked too early. The best rugby they played was obviously in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse. Since then, they’ve only beaten Connacht and Edinburgh. The season has just drifted away from them.
There’s been no real fluency in their backline in recent weeks and decision-making has been a constant problem. Depth has been a problem with their backs, whereas actually it’s been okay in their forwards. They’ve had a lot of possession but haven’t made enough of it. Maybe it’s a mental problem or maybe it’s just a quality issue – whatever the reason, they’ve been heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time of the year.