Munster must arrive in Clermont in mint condition – Conor Murray

The Irish province knows that nothing less than a victory will suffice in Stade Marcel Michelin

 
Conor MurrayChampions CupAuvergne

There’s enough to pack for France and the Stade Marcel Michelin this Sunday without having to pay a tariff for bringing excess mental baggage. Frustrated, disappointed, irritable and impatient, the Munster players are looking to secure the right pitch point. Under cooked or overwrought would be equally debilitating, never mind the technical issues.

Cup final

The Munster scrumhalf was at a loss to explain why. “It is hard to put your finger on it. I suppose mentally you have to be willing to go to that place and put your body on the line. They defended us really well. The greasy ball, the slow ball, they just managed to get off the line. We had way more possession than them.

“We struggled to put a physical stamp on the game and that is probably number one on the list of things to get right, be a lot more physical against these lads because they are big men. We kinda got bullied a little bit.

“On nights like that maybe it is probably better that you don’t have the ball. You can ramp up line speed and put teams under pressure, you can have them going backwards and wondering where to go next. That is probably what they did to us.”

Murray knows all about slow ball because he’s the one that has to excavate it from rucks. “The knock-on effect (from slow ball) is not being able to get momentum early on in the first few carries. Once they came off the line and hit us, we were on the back foot.

“You (then) struggle to find front foot ball again and then you then look to kick it. Our kicking game wasn’t up to standard. It is one of the areas we will try and fix this weekend. We played into their hands a little bit. We were a bit predicable in the way we carried the ball. They came off the line and they seemed to know which runners we were going to use, so probably being a bit smarter around that area will be an aim for us.

“Conditions will probably be a bit different. It was a wet night on Saturday. I am not making an excuse, but it allows teams to get off the line a lot easier, harder and make those dominant tackles. You’ve got to get the momentum inside, to go outside.

“I suppose on back-foot ball or slow ball, there is no real point in going wide, because they can get off the line, they know what you are trying to do and they can probably catch you 20 metres behind the gain-line. It is initially about fronting up and being physical, getting that momentum early on and then rugby seems easy.

“When it is slow and you are struggling to get momentum, that is when it is tough and you are finding yourself trying to pick the right option and it doesn’t always work.

More pressure

So does Murray believe that the performance last weekend was an aberration based on the province’s performances to date? “The annoying thing is that we didn’t do the things we were doing well all year at all. As good as they (Clermont) are, and they will be a different prospect this week, running the ball a lot more, we have got to look at ourselves, our own performance.

“We have to try and get that right, physically make an impact on the game which is something we didn’t do. It’s pretty crucial in the big games like that. We didn’t perform, they did. Now it is on us to go down there and perform.

“It’s rare you get another chance to play a team you didn’t perform against just a week later. That’s a nice thing to have, a motivating factor. There’s pressure on us now to go down there and stay alive in this group. The whole squad know what’s on the line this weekend.”

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