Heineken hangover robs Leinster and Munster of intensity needed for Pro 12 contests
Alan Quinlan believes players let what had happened the previous week interfere with preparations
There’s a very good and simple reason for thinking this – it happens. It’s part of what team sport is about. Some guys step up one week, others the following week and the best teams are the ones who have enough big performers week- in, week-out. On a certain level, everybody accepts you can’t be at full throttle in every game. You don’t go out to underperform. But you know perfect can’t be done every week.
Coaches know this too. That’s why they make changes, bring in fresh guys who should be hungry or feel they have a point to prove after missing out on the big game the week before.
People talk about freshening up the team – what they mean is freshening up mentally more than physically. It’s taking into account that everyone can’t be at full pelt in every game. Hopefully, with fresh faces involved, there will be enough to get you across the line.
But it doesn’t always happen. Doubts creep in. You lose a few early collisions and suddenly you’re thinking that this isn’t how this was supposed to go. You’re in a dogfight, which you expected. But not enough of your dogs are fighting.
And the opposition sense this. They’ve trained all week. They’ve been focusing on this game while you were recovering from your Heineken Cup match. They don’t care that you’re trying to pick yourself up or bring yourself back down to earth. They know there’s a potential for you to be distracted. And if they get a hint of it at all, they’ll be ready to exploit it.
Take the Ospreys. Friday night in Swansea, the league leaders coming to town. Not just the league leaders but Leinster, three times Heineken Cup winners. Ospreys haven’t had a great season, but they’re one place off the play-offs and they need a win to keep their season alive. Meanwhile, Leinster have played in France on Sunday, got home on Monday, trained Tuesday and Wednesday and got back on the plane for a Friday game.
If you were an Ospreys player or coach last week, you would have been going: “We have a brilliant chance here of getting a result. These guys have been travelling all week, they’ve gone out of the Heineken Cup, the last place they want to be on Friday is here. Let’s get in their faces and test them to see how up for it they are.”
Glasgow went out with the same mindset. They wanted to test Munster and see did they have an eye on the Heineken semi-final. They would have seen that Munster’s Rabo form has been slipping badly over the last month. They’ve already beaten Leinster, Ulster and Connacht this season. They went to Thomond Park and took the game to a Munster side that didn’t fancy it on the night.
Leinster and Munster came to the weekend from very different starting points but they both ended up the same way. The reason for it was nothing complicated – they let what had happened the previous week interfere with their preparation. It’s a great lesson to learn.