"I don't want to stick the knife in" - Are Leinster in Munster's heads? 4 months ago

"I don't want to stick the knife in" - Are Leinster in Munster's heads?

"Is it a psychological thing?"

Saturday at the Aviva Stadium was grim viewing for many Munster supporters as their side fell away in a United Rugby Championship encounter with a weakened Leinster side.

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At this stage, given how well many of these fringe players, older stagers and young guns have performed, affirming titles like 'B', 'C' or 'Reserves' is unfair. Many that make such claims forget the likes of James Ryan, Jordan Larmour, Caelan Doris, and much more, were playing in similar XVs not so long ago.

The fact of the matter is, Leinster were able to rest most of their leading players due to the squad, as a whole, wrapping up top spot in the league standings, and ensuring home quarter- and semi-finals, with two games to spare. One Sportsfile photo showed Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Porter, Jimmy O'Brien, Rónan Kelleher, Dave Kearney and Ross Byrne all taking the game in from the stands. Not far away, sat James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Caelan Doris, Hugo Keenan and James Ryan.

Munster went behind early but came back well and led 19-12, early in the second half, only to lose 35-25 and look flat out of attacking ideas in the closing stages. The result means they must head to Belfast to face Ulster in a URC quarter final, then head for either Cape Town or Edinburgh for a semi, if they get there.

On House of Rugby URC, [LISTEN from 2:30 below], Greg O'Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy discussed Leinster's latest win over their old rivals, and if Munster could salvage silverware from a tough season.

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Leinster players, from left, Rhys Ruddock, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O'Brien, Andrew Porter and Rónan Kelleher watch the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Munster will have to win the hard way

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"There was a complete lack of energy," Greg O'Shea reflected of Munster's faltering finish against Leinster. It was the province's 14 defeat in 17 games against their interprovincial foes since they did the double over them, in 2014/15.

"It seemed like the Munster lads didn't know what to do," O'Shea added.

"They were all looking at each other, like, 'Who's going to take the ball here?' Conor Murray was taking two and three seconds at the ruck, looking for options then shipping it off to someone like Jeremy Loughman. Now, he's class but that's not creative.

"Whereas Leinster are just steaming around the corner. They have their systems and they know what they're doing, and this was their second-string team. They were throwing balls on the ground. One moment that epitomised it was Keith Earls just throwing a pass straight to the ground...

"At one stage, the whole Munster team, all 15 players, were on the one side of the pitch. As a system, in a professional team, that never happens. That doesn't happen in schools rugby! I was thinking, there's something going on here. No-one is taking the bull by the horns."

Former Leinster and Ireland star Lindsay Peat was anticipating a much closer game, on Saturday, especially when Munster were still in with a chance of securing home knock-out rugby games.

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"Without being offensive or digging the knife in here, but do you think it's psychological with Leinster and Munster?" she asked.

"I think it's a bigger problem," Jason Hennessy replied. "Yes, there is something there with Leinster because it has been so long and the don't get many results off them, any more. The issue, I think, is that Johann Van Graan's head is in Bath, and it has been for many months."

Hennessy feels Munster do have a chance of repeating their regular season dose, at Kingspan Stadium, and beating Ulster in the quarter finals. "But, I don't think they've a chance of winning the URC, if I'm honest with you," he conceded.

As much as Hennessy may point to the departing head coach van Graan as the main issue, Leinster do remain the big, bad spectre. The team's younger players need to take it to Leinster in a big game, with big stakes, soon or face more seasons in their rival's shadow.


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