Belfast Telegraph

Munster's fringe men must rise to toughest challenge: Holland


Battle ready: Ben Holland is ready for Connacht clash
Battle ready: Ben Holland is ready for Connacht clash

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The teams are not yet out for the weekend, but if you follow Ireland's leading lights on Instagram it doesn't take long to figure out which World Cup players you won't be seeing at the RDS tomorrow night or at the Sportsground on Saturday.

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With Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Peter O'Mahony among those posting holiday snaps, Munster will be sending a re-jigged line-up west to face Connacht in what is a pivotal game for their season.

After that, they welcome an unbeaten Leinster team to Thomond Park before heading north to face a buoyant Ulster.

Then, they head for Paris for their season-defining clash with Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.

Munster have always defined themselves by their European performance, but nothing rams home the importance of performing in the PRO14 than their Champions Cup pool draw this season.

Having failed to top the Conference last year around, they ended up away to Leinster for the second successive season in the semi-final. That defeat landed them in a pool with Saracens and Racing 92.

Billy Holland is well used to these weeks as he leads a youthful team shorn of leadership and experience.

"You make sure of good detail in training particularly early on in the week," he said of the key to adapting.

"Fellas coming in who haven't been in for a few weeks, they've got to get up to speed pretty quickly on the calls and the timing, their running lines, their defensive set ups where guys who have been playing.

"There is a bit of learning certainly and you'd be looking to get the learning done early in the week so when it comes to Thursday, Friday, Saturday you can focus on rugby, the physical side of it and doing what got you there in the first place.

"What drives the squad is competition and rotation and I think Leinster have done that incredibly well in the last couple of years and that's why they have been the best team in the PRO14 for the last couple of years because they have got such a good squad. You need a big squad."

Unlike some of his team-mates, Holland is regular at the Sportsground and he's unlikely to get his wish for benign conditions on Saturday.

Not that it will matter, with the stakes this high there is a determination within Munster to get the job done.

"It's such a tough place to play, you're playing into the weather, Connacht always play well at home and they have this incredible never say die attitude," he said.

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