Murray’s Munster must up physicality to save European season in Clermont

MUNSTER WERE PHYSICALLY battered by Clermont last weekend in Thomond Park.

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It’s not often a criticism that can be thrown at the southern province, and the sight of Anthony Foley’s men repeatedly losing the collisions and the gainline wasn’t an enjoyable one for the Munster family.

An immediate rematch with the French side gives the likes of Conor Murray a chance to redeem themselves, and save their Champions Cup campaign too.

Defeat at Stade Marcel Michelin would leave Foley’s men in an almost impossible position in Pool 1. Mastering the contact situations will be priority number one in the Auvergne this weekend, even if the tactical challenge is likely to be considerably different.

“We’ve had to take a bit of a look at ourselves, fix a few things and marry that with a bit more physicality. We were probably beaten up a little bit. Not that we were surprised with how physical they were going to be, we just played into their hands a bit and didn’t match their physicality.

Murray believes Clermont will kick the ball less in France. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“That’s a huge step we’ve got to take this week, looking at training and gearing up for this. Physicality is a huge thing; it’s a basic of rugby. If you win the physical battles, you get that momentum and you’re in a good position to win the game.”

Clermont appeared relatively content with Munster having possession in a wet Thomond Park last weekend, allowing their oppressive defensive line to swallow up ball carriers at every opportunity.

But ASM on home soil are so often a changed proposition. The reductive, basic gameplan we saw in Limerick is likely to be swapped for a more ambitious running and offloading blueprint.

“Down there with their home fans, they have a great atmosphere and it’s a great place to play rugby.

“But we’ve got to be aware of what that does to them, gives them an extra bit of confidence and willingness to run the ball. We’ve looked at their home games and when there’s good conditions, we know what to expect.”

It’s all on the line for Munster in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Murray points to last weekend’s first-minute try through Fritz Lee as a vital mental swing for Clermont in Thomond Park, before underlining the need for his side to start well on Sunday afternoon.

Of more encouragement for the Ireland scrum-half was the fact that Munster battled back into contention and notched a losing bonus point even after such a poor performance.

“The way I’m looking at it is that we didn’t perform as well as we could have, and were still within seven points of them,” continues Murray.

It remains to be seen if Munster can find their form just a week after being beaten up in Limerick, but Murray finishes with another reminder of what the province are focused on ahead of their trip to Clermont-Ferrand.

“It’s probably a mental strength or commitment you have to make. Maybe we were just a few percent off in terms of physicality and willingness to be physical against them. We know it’s got to go up a level this week.”

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