“YOU ALWAYS WANT to judge yourself against the best and to be fair, Leinster have shown that they’re probably the best province in the country for the past number of years.”
For all the consensus that Munster have made progress under Rob Penney this season, No. 8 James Coughlan is aware that Saturday provides the southern province with a true barometer of their ability.
The Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse at Thomond Park on the 5th of April is clearly looming for all involved, but Coughlan stresses that Munster’s attention is firmly on challenging Leinster’s status as the number one province in Ireland.
That’s something that doesn’t sit well with us and something we want to rectify. The focus, sincerely, is all about Leinster.”
Last weekend, Munster trudged to a 14-3 win at home to Treviso, hardly ideal preparation to face their inter-provincial rivals. However, while admitting that there were “plenty of mistakes and errors” in that display, Coughlan says this week’s preparation has been different.
“You say there isn’t [a difference], but there is. The intensity is there and the focus is there that might not be there all the time. You can’t get yourselves up to that level every week, because it’s not possible.
“But when it is there, you can feel it and appreciate it. It’s been a good couple of days training in Cork.”
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Munster won their most recent tie against Leinster, claiming a 19-15 victory in Limerick that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Travelling to Leinster to face what should be Matt O’Connor’s full-strength side is an altogether different proposition.
Dublin has not been a happy hunting ground for Munster in the recent past.
“No, it hasn’t and I think a couple of the lads said today that it’s 2008 since we won up there so it would be great to be able to do the double this year. They’re massive occasions when you play Leinster.
I’m sure they’ll be looking to tee themselves up for the trip to Toulon, but we’ll be looking to do the same, looking forward to Toulouse.”
Despite his insistence that Munster are focused totally on Saturday’s Pro12 tie, the shadow of Toulouse remains in view. 33-year-old Coughlan outlines that he is excited to face “two of the best teams in world rugby” over the coming weekends, before pointing out that these fixtures are the motivation for professional players.
“In June, July and August you’re trying to get through the pre-season. The reason you do it is so that you’re in with a fighting chance come April and May. We want to progress further than we did last year. We want to take a step forward.
“The way we’re playing, we’ll definitely get a semi-final of some shape in the Rabo. It’s up to us to make sure it’s a home semi. It’s exactly what you want. I’m itching for it.”
Audio courtesy of Aoife Danagher.