Munster’s victorious skipper against the Wallabies, James Coughlan, has told his players to view Tuesday’s night’s performance as a ‘one-off’ and show their true professionalism against the Scarlets this weekend.
While the 29-year-old back rower enjoyed writing his name into the annals of Munster rugby folklore at Thomond Park this week, he knows that four points in Cork on Sunday in the Magners League top-of-the-table clash with the Welsh region is equally important.
“This is when the professionalism of the players and the club needs to come through. Quality teams back up good performances with another one and that’s what we must do,” said Coughlan.
“Tuesday night’s win over the Aussies was fantastic for the whole Munster rugby family, but four points against the Scarlets are equally vital. They will arrive at Musgrave Park probably thinking we’ve been on the pop for four days celebrating our victory, but that certainly hasn’t been the case.
“This is week 22 of our season, it will be our eighth Magners League game and we’ve worked hard to get to the top of the league. We’ve only lost once so far, to Leinster, and we don’t want to lose our grip on top spot.
“There is a four point gap between the Scarlets and ourselves at the top of the table, but this game is a case of getting back to reality for the squad. We’re both missing some key players, but what Tuesday night proved is we have a lot of talented youngsters who are ready to take their chance in the Munster jersey.”
The Scarlets have made a huge improvement this season after finishing one off the bottom in 2009/10 and have already picked up 24 points from seven games – a mere five points short of last season’s total of 29 from 18 matches.
They will be missing Wales skipper Matthew Rees, half-backs Tavis Knoyle and Stephen Jones, George North and the injured Jonathan Davies, while Munster will be missing nine Irish internationals.
“These young players are pushing us all and starting to make me feel old. More than that, they are living proof that Munster is not all about the international stars,” added Coughlan.
“When the likes of O’Gara, O’Callaghan, Stringer, Wallace, Flannery, Hayes, Horan and O’Connell are away on Irish duty we have players who are ready, willing and able to step up and fill their jerseys. Sometimes the only difference between an international player and a squad member is an opportunity.
“What the November international window and the Six Nations period gives us is a chance to rely on the strength in depth of our squad. That’s why we have 35-40 players on the books and each and every one of them realises the responsibility that comes with wearing the red jersey.”
Scarlets coach Nigel Davies has seen his side lose the last seven Magners League games against Munster, although can be cheered by the fact his side has picked up four losing bonus points in that sequence.