O’Connell settles for a Munster step forward
Munster head into the New Year and the defining rounds of Heineken Cup Pool One with their destiny firmly within their grasp, if not entirely in control of all aspects of their game.
However, corrective surgery is always more satisfactorily undertaken when accompanied by a winning habit.
“It's satisfying winning games,” said captain Paul O'Connell, after emerging from a relatively subdued dressing-room still reeling from their improbable final quarter collapse in yesterday’s 19-13 win over Scarlets.
“That's it and that's all you've got to do. You can play all the fabulous rugby in the world but if you're not winning it's not much good to anyone.
“We're doing a lot of things really well. We've just got to do them really well for 80 minutes more consistently. If we can do that we can be a really good side in this competition.”
Munster are traditionally hard on themselves though and O'Connell conceded the frailties which allowed Scarlets to regain the momentum after seemingly seeing the game slip away from them following James Coughlan's try and the binning of Jonathan Edwards in the 52nd minute.
“I think it was plain for all to see that we did a lot of very good things but I think we were our own worst enemies at times.
“You got to make those tackles and we've got to exit our own half of the pitch a little bit better at times, particularly when we went 19-6 ahead. We probably needed to play the game a bit more down there and put them under a bit of pressure and we didn't always.
“We knocked on balls, we conceded possession and turned over the ball and it just puts you under a lot of pressure.”
Still, the bald facts relate that Munster remain in charge of their own destiny, notwithstanding the fact that their hand is a little less steady on the tiller as of yore.
“It's hard to say really because with four wins from four you'd think we've been really dominant, but we haven't been,” added O'Connell.
“Every game has been really tight, they've been very narrow winning margins in all of them so we won't be getting ahead of ourselves. It's kind of a strange pool in that everyone is capable of beating everyone.
“You look at what Castres did to Northampton and Northampton nearly won the tournament last season, so those are our two games coming up and they're going to be two very tough games.
“We know as well as anyone how tight they've been and we could easily be in a lot worse situation here. So we've just got to keep our heads down and make sure we fight for everything again in early January.”