Reigning Magners League Champions Munster insist Saturday’s defeat to Leinster can have a positive effect ahead of this weekend’s Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.
Munster were beaten 16-15 by their Dublin-based rivals as they missed out on the chance to jump to the top of the Magners League table with just four games remaining.
Defeat on your own patch might not seem like the best way to prepare for a European quarter final but head coach Tony McGahan believes the disappointment felt by his players will provide further motivation as they go in search of a third Heineken Cup crown in five years.
“It will spur us on. The dressing room is very motivated to do well,” said McGahan.
“You welcome a really tough game the week before a quarter-final. It could easily have been 16-15 to us, but it wasn’t.
“We need to re-group this week. We’ve got a Heineken Cup quarter-final and this is a competition we want to do well in after coming up just short last season.
“We need to get on with it. We are playing against a Northampton side that are in excellent form in the Premiership and who have already won a trophy this season.”
Munster face Amlin Challenge Cup and LV= Cup holders Northampton for the third time this term, having played them home and away during the group stages of the Heineken Cup.
McGahan’s men lost the first encounter at Franklin’s Gardens before gaining revenge in the return match at Thomond Park in January.
Both encounters were tense affairs, with little to choose between the two sides, and McGahan admits he is expecting more of the same this time around.
“Northampton are the real deal and I think they will come here with no fears,” added the Australian.
“We know from previous encounters, when it’s been a four and three-point spread, that they will come here full of hope to get a result.
“They have got great momentum at the moment. They have been playing with virtually the same squad for the past five or six games.
“They seem a very tight-knit group and they seem to have a great spirit there at the moment.
“They are a side that can play a variety of ways. They are going to come here and try to keep close to us and have a physical battle.
“Jim Mallinder and Dorian West are very smart guys and good coaches, so I’m sure they will have done their homework on us.”
Both sides have plenty of talent out wide, with the likes of Jaen de Villiers, Doug Howlett and Keith Earls likely to start for Munster and Chris Ashton, Ben Foden and Bruce Reihana all in contention for Saints, but McGahan believes the battle will ultimately be won or lost up front.
“I think the way the game’s going now, it really starts and finishes in the front row,” explained McGahan.
“It’s difficult to try and generate ball off collapsed mauls or scrums going backwards. If you need to go through three or four phases to generate quick ball, you need to get rid of it otherwise you’re going to find yourselves in trouble.
“Northampton have proved this year (that they’re strong) in the setpiece scrums and the lineout, and the restart, particularly when they’re kicking off and getting a huge amount of return from that.
“If you don’t get parity in the setpiece, you’ll find it difficult to play.”