Beating Ospreys could turn tide for Munster rugby

Beating Ospreys could turn tide for Munster rugby
Billy Holland during a Munster Rugby press conference at University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

BILLY HOLLAND is a veteran of this Munster side and has been there and has the t-shirt to prove it.

He certainly doesn’t think there is any need for panic mode in Munster and says his side could turn their season back around with one big performance against Ospreys next Sunday lunchtime in Thomond Park.

Unfortunately, the same can be said for Munster’s opponents Ospreys who will welcome George North and talisman Alun Wynn Jones back on Sunday.

Holland understands what a huge fillip in confidence the returning pair will bring to the visiting Welsh side.

He was part of a team in the middle of a bad run with Munster when Sale visited Thomond Park in the European Cup back in January 2015 and the win that day bolstered Munster and propelled them on for the remainder of the season.

“We played the year where we were struggling to qualify for Europe, we'd have to call it Dark December where we played five games and didn't get one point not even a losing bonus points for five games in a row.

“And we played Sale in Thomond Park and we had a great win, and then go to Six Nations and we played well during that period and won a couple of games and got up the table so it's a fickle business positively and negatively.” 

The biggest thing that North and Jones will bring to their side on Sunday helps make the Welsh side a dangerous animal says Holland.

Munster's Billy Holland wins a line out from Racing 92's Bernard Le RouxMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Munster's Billy Holland wins a line out from Racing 92's Bernard Le RouxMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

“Confidence for one, they were in the last four, the semi-finals of the World Cup. 

"So, you know, Alun Wynn’s last game was the third/fourth place play-off and then he's playing Sarries.

“All their Welsh players coming back are confident, they’re also fit and incredibly good players who are trying to bring I suppose the rest of the lads who are probably a little bit down, to bring up their confidence levels and guys like that with nothing to lose are dangerous, and he’ll (Jones) relish coming over to Thomond Park on Sunday afternoon and giving it a go and having a lash off us.

“Rugby can be so strange. 

"You can you can go into a downward spiral so quickly, but you can equally come out of one with one really big performance. 

"If Ospreys were to come over from their point of view, to Thomond Park and win in Europe, that's going to kick start their season massively, and that’s all they need is one big win. 

"And they're back on the horse and they’re going back into, I think, 11 games left for the pro 14 is more than half the season, that's the pro 14 so they've a huge amount left to play for in that competition.” 

As regards a downward spiral closer to home, the lineout specialist doesn’t think Munster are headed that way. 

Yes they will have to learn to be more clinical but the Cork second row thinks the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

“I don't think we are in a downward spiral we’ve had some poor results. 

"I think when you look at us from our performance point of view, some of our performance have been really good and going in the right direction. For sure.

“Other than the Ulster game, where it was totally unacceptable performance, performance has been really good. 

"We've let ourselves down in the last 5/10 minutes of the Sarries game and the game at the weekend.

“And we started badly against Leinster, you know, 13 nil down back to 13-6 with with 35 to go and we just couldn't break them down. 

"So, yeah, you know, is our confidence sky high. 

"No, it's not. But we know that our performances are going in the right direction so it's not fully there yet but it needs to be there at that level in places like Paris and London. 

"You need to be at the top of your game.”

Munster Rugby Squad Training, UL, Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Munster Rugby Squad Training, UL, Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

One of the areas Munster must improve on is discipline. 

A stupid penalty by Jean Kleyn at the end of the first quarter in Paris turned the momentum of the game away from Munster and got Racing on the scoreboard.

“Discipline has cost us in the latter parts of the season and prior games, if you go back to the semi finals.

Leinster a couple times; our discipline has been poor and again in Thomond Park we were just giving them opportunities to get into our 22 and when teams get into your 22 they are hard to stop.

“So yeah discipline is something that has been an issue for us in the past and something we work on. 

"We try and self discipline but it’s something that certainly does need improvement, it's controllable to a certain extent when you're under pressure from a team discipline may fail the odd time but I think we need to be better disciplined in some of the aspects that we can control ourselves."

His side could do with a rub of the green on Sunday if Munster are to stay in Europe.

“Yeah. Some people say you make your own luck. 

"Yeah, we have been a little bit unlucky at times and we need a bit of luck this weekend, if we don’t get a bit at the weekend we’re out of Europe, so yeah we’re due a lit bit so fingers crossed.”

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