Mike Prendergast focused on eradicating Munster errors ahead of Connacht clash

New attack and backs coach admits to working on handling flaws

It is doubtful anyone has been more frustrated or concerned about Munster’s misfiring start to the season than Mike Prendergast. Although Munster registered their first win at the third attempt against Zebre last Saturday in Cork, handling errors again abounded as they emulated their second-half display when losing to the Dragons in again failing to score a solitary point in the second-half.

Their new attack and backs coach admitted that correcting this recurring flaw had been the main focus of his week.

“There were inaccuracies, and we’re the first to know as a team and coaching staff, and it’s something we know we need to get better at, absolutely. When I speak about inaccuracies, there’s a bit to do with that in terms of combinations getting used to each other, and we’re implementing as much as we can, from how we want to train, to how we want to play, and that’s going to take a bit of time.

“It doesn’t allow excuses for not being able to catch the ball early, and that’s something we spoke about and looked at on the video on Monday. Through our shapes and systems, we can see that there will potentially be opportunities if we are a bit sharper around the catch-pass element of our game. It’s a work in progress, and it’s where we want to go, but we need to do it better.”


Prendergast didn’t necessarily feel that his players were lacking confidence.

“I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing. Again, this isn’t looking for excuses, because we take responsibility as coaches and players, but in terms of combinations we’ve used 41 players in three games. We have the adjustment of players getting used to each other, new plays, new framework in place, so there’s that element to it.

“We sat down with a very honest and open video on Monday, and looked at those areas, and we’ve been working on them and putting them in place to be better for the next training and next match.”

Munster have been boosted by the return to training this week of Gavin Coombes, who looks set to be part of their match-day squad for Friday’s derby against Connacht at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm).

Coombes has missed Munster’s first three games of the season with a groin injury and his return ought to bring more oomph to Munster’s carrying game, with Prendergast admitting that part of their problem in suffering so many turnovers has been their failure to win more collisions.

This was highlighted by the impact of Academy duo Edwin Edogbo and Ruadhan Quinn off the bench against Zebre.

“Huge impact, huge energy, especially in contact, is where I’ve been most impressed with them, in that close contact. I know Ruadhan was out on the edge a couple of times,” said Prendergast, but “winning those collisions” generated momentum. “because at the end of the day the game is about winning collisions and creating quick ball.”

Jean Kleyn will also return to full training this week after completing his return to play protocols but Simon Zebo has been ruled out of Friday’s game with a calf injury, as is Liam Coombes (hamstring).

Alex Kendellen has completed his latest return to play protocols for a concussion sustained in their opening game against Cardiff but he will meet an independent concussion consultant. and be given more time to recover while continue to be monitored by the medical department. Munster report that Kendellen “remains sidelined for the upcoming BKT URC rounds”, thus joining RG Snyman (knee), Jack Daly (knee), Alex Kendellen (head), Paddy Kelly (head), Keith Earls (thigh) and Andrew Conway (knee) on their absentee list.

Connacht have themselves failed to pick up a solitary point in losing their opening three games, all away, but Prendergast is expecting something of a backlash for what will be their interpro rivals’ first game of the season at the Sportsground.

“It’s a big occasion for them with the opening of their 4G pitch, so I’m sure the place will be rocking on Friday night, and they’ll look at it as a good opportunity for them. If you look at the fixtures for them, the last few weeks have been challenging. They have had challenging games, but they’ve been away together, which is a good thing at the start of a season, bringing people together for two weeks. We know it’ll be a big challenge. They’ll come out at 100 per cent, gunning, and we will too.

“We’re disappointed, we know better than anyone that we came up short over the last number of weeks. There’s an element of bedding in new systems, but we know we need to get better, and that’s how we’re looking at this game, but we know it’ll be a big challenge.”

Ironically, while it will be Connacht’s first game of the season on an all-weather pitch, for Munster it will be their sixth of six in this campaign on 4G pitches, having entertained Sale and London Irish in Musgrave Park in preseason before URC games away to Cardiff and Newport and then hosting Zebre in Cork.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve been training on them, because all of our games have been on 4G pitches. But big picture for us is about getting ourselves right, getting ourselves prepared. As we spoke about, bringing down our error count and outside of what ground we’re playing on that’s bigger to us at the moment.

“We do realise from playing on it the last few weeks that the speed of the game is different, but we’ve had the fortune of experiencing it over the last couple of weeks. We’re used to it now.”

However an interpro derby is likely to heighten the intensity.

“It’s our first one of the year and the two teams will be looking for wins and performances given the position we’re both in. Being an interprovincial game, there’s more in it as well. For me and the players, we spoke about how important that is during the week.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times