‘We could have no qualms if we came away with a loss’ – Billy Holland
Munster relieved in the end to prise two points from the visit to Castres
Peter O’Mahony addresses the Munster team huddle at Stade Pierre Fabre in Castres. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
“It’s a game we should have won but we could easily have lost it in the last five minutes when our discipline was very poor,” said a relieved Holland after Sunday’s brutal encounter at Stade Pierre Fabre.
Reaction from the Munster camp, while honest and positive in the wake of this 17-17 result, perhaps masks how the four coaches, two departing, must really feel.
Collective effort is most certainly not under review but perhaps Reggie Corrigan, in that now infamous TG4 interview, would have been better served asking Peter O’Mahony about Munster’s inaccuracy, which is increasingly highlighting the lack international quality in the squad – unlike the two- or even three players-deep cover in most positions at Leinster.
Niall Scannell should still feature for Ireland next month despite his momentum-slowing errors on Sunday. Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Simon Zebo all seem a part of Joe Schmidt’s immediate plans, likewise O’Mahony and CJ Stander. But Rory Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne face well-established competition for November caps.
“When you come to France, they will throw everything at you and they did,” said Holland, uncovering positive vibes in the French sunshine as he spoke. “We stood up well. We did enough to win, but at this level, you have to capitalise on those opportunities. We could have no qualms if we came away with a loss.”
On mature reflection, escaping with two points as Racing 92’s mammoth pack appear on the horizon can be seen as satisfactory.
“It wasn’t probably the prettiest of games to watch,” said Munster’s first and last director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. He added that it was preferable to get some points from a scrappy display than get zero points having played a “ wonderful beautiful game”.
“Last week against Leinster we scored three tries and got one point out of the game and normally when you lose a game you lose a little bit of confidence. I think the only good record we have had in the last 15 months is that we have never lost two games in a row!”
That still matters.
Professor Erasmus declined to provide a full tutorial on the many technical malfunctions as Munster missed a real opportunity to start their Champions Cup campaign, and probably Erasmus’s penultimate match in full control, with victory in southern France.
That might matter.
“I guess when you hammer on their line and go six, seven, eight breakdowns and lose it in the eighth breakdown it’s a technique thing.”
Erasmus was understandably coy. A surgical Tuesday morning review, without anaesthetic, is for the players ears only.
“I really believe we are a young and growing squad, and a better one than this time last year,” said Holland. “This time last year we played on massive emotion at times for obvious reasons. We have raised our standards this season in terms of defence and attack.”
The entire squad took Monday off to honour Anthony Foley’s one year anniversary.
“We called out to Olive last week to meet her. We’re in constant contact with her and the family. I feel that the emotional side was right last week, it’s the technical stuff which is letting us down; exits and breakdowns. Physicality and attitude-wise, we were spot on and hope and expect it to be the same next weekend.”
Woe betide anyone who says otherwise, even if a refocused Racing 92, following the Leone Nakarawa-inspired 22-18 scalping of Leicester in Paris, will demand a higher standard of Munster performance after a fortnight of being rattled, if not splintered.