Munster welcome interprovincial rivals Ulster to Thomond Park in the Guinness Pro14 this weekend on the back of an inconsistent start to the season. Johann van Graan’s side have put in two eye catching showings at home but it’s the two heavy defeats on foreign shores that will have the Munster camp scratching their heads.
Rory Scannell cut a frustrated figure at the High Performance Centre in UL this week and was clearly disappointed with Friday’s game with Cardiff Blues went. “We watched the game in detail in our review and we made quite a lot of mistakes which was disappointing and obviously at that level when you make that many mistakes you are going to struggle to get a win, especially away from home.
“It was disappointing to watch the performance again but we have to put it behind us and concentrate on Ulster. We were in a good spot going into half time. The momentum swung a bit then and after 50/55 minutes we gave away quite a lot of penalties and there were a lot of unforced errors. A kicker of Gareth Anscombe’s quality is going to punish you all day. The second half was very disappointing. We went through it as a squad and are looking to right the wrongs against Ulster.
“They have had a very good start to the season. Three wins from their first three games and a draw in Bloemfontein last weekend. They are in quite a good run of form and our form has been poor. We have had two good wins at home but we need another good performance at Thomond Park and hopefully that will get us over the line.”
The Ulster game in Thomond Park this Saturday is the start of a crucial set of games that could help define Munster’s season, despite it being so early in the campaign. Van Graan’s men have Leinster in the Aviva Stadium the following week and then play two crucial Heineken Champions Cup games against Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester. Despite the big games ahead, Scannell’s focus is fully on this weekend’s clash.
“It’s a tough block of games and against quality opposition as well but given our performance against Cardiff we have to solely concentrate on Ulster this week as a squad. The coaches might look ahead to Leinster and Exeter Chiefs but for us as a squad we need to have a quality performance against Ulster. We are taking that responsibility.”
The 24-year-old centre will also have Ireland in the back of his mind in the next few weeks as Joe Schmidt finalises his squad for the November International. He was part of Ireland’s extended Six Nations Grand Slam squad but ultimately missed out on the summer tour to Australia. However, he says his focus is firmly on Munster right now.
“It may be in the back of some guys minds but if the individuals and the team perform in these big games the rest will look after itself. I don’t think guys will be looking too far ahead into the Autumn Internationals or anything like that. We just need to have big performances over the next three or four weeks.”