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All about attitude and intensity

Guinness PRO12 Editor

25 May 2011

Munster boss Tony McGahan says attitude and intensity will be the two key factors in the second Magners League Grand Final.

McGahan’s men finished the regular season 13 points clear of second-placed Leinster but the campaign now comes down to a massive 80 minutes at Thomond Park this Saturday.

And the man charged with ensuring Munster end the year on a high has no doubt that his side will have to be at their mental and physical best to be crowned Magners League Champions for the second time in three seasons.

"It’s all about attitude and intensity in the way you play," said McGahan at his press conference to preview the final clash of a pulsating Magners League calendar.

"You’ve seen in big games this year that the side that’s able to bring that for longer and be more consistent is the one who comes out on top.

"The big thing for us is not what we’re doing, it’s how de do it, and that’s across every spectrum of the game. It’s how we bring that intensity and how we bring that spirit into things. It’s about he we go about getting what we need to achieve."

But while McGahan insists Munster will have to be spot on in the way they approach Saturday’s showdown, the Australian is also fully aware that when chances for success present themselves in Limerick, they simply have to be taken.

That hasn’t always been the case for this Munster team, particularly against this weekend’s opponents.

Although Munster edged the last match between the sides in early April, Leinster had won five on the bounce prior to that encounter.

And while last month’s win ended a horror sequence for the Red Army, a quick look at the stats doesn’t make pleasant reading for the Munster faithful. Their side have failed to score a try against Leinster in the last six meetings dating back to April 2009, a nasty little niggle that McGahan is fully aware of.

But statistics are lies and damned lies as they say and there’s no suggestion that Munster have been unable to create chances against their bitter rivals – they simply haven’t taken them. That must change and it must change now says McGahan.

"You see this every season at the back end of the year: it’s sides who take their opportunities who succeed," added McGahan.

"We felt we left three or four tries on the floor through lack of execution when we played them last. You either take those chances or you don’t.

"You saw that at the weekend: Leinster took theirs in the second half. It’s certainly a big part of what we need to do this weekend.

"I’ve gone back over the last three years and watched that group of games against them. We’ve certainly left a lot of opportunities out there. A lot of the last few games have had just one try and it’s Leinster who’ve got that try.

"It’s about finishing and accuracy. That determines the result and we need to be better at that."


Leinster have a better try-scoring record in recent encounters

McGahan gave his players a similar message after the Play-Off semi-final win over the Ospreys a fortnight ago.

For the most part, Munster made light work of the reigning champions, dominating for the vast majority of the one-off match, but again they let chances slip.

Instead of killing off James Hook and co with time to spare, Munster left the door ajar, even if it would have been beyond unjust if Richard Fussell’s late score had been followed by another that saw the visitors leave Limerick with a sneaky win.

‘We must be more clinical’ is a phrase you can picture McGahan telling his men after the heat of the battle. But you get the feeling it wasn’t the only reminder he was giving in the dressing rooms at Thomond.

‘We’re getting there, that was a big improvement, it’s a big step in the right direction, just believe in yourselves’ had to have been in there somewhere. After all, defeat to Harlequins in the Amlin Challenge Cup didn’t make Munster a bad side overnight.

This an outfit who won a remarkable 19 of their 22 fixtures in the regular Magners League season, a record that would have made outside criticism seem incredibly petty had it been directed towards any other side. But this is Munster after all, a province where success is ingrained in the pysche and where second best is seen as failure.

"We certainly came into the Ospreys game with a lot of pressure – both internally with the pressure we put on ourselves with regard to getting a result and externally with there being a lot of different theories out there.

"I think we displayed our real selves in that game with the intensity that we played with. That was terrific.

"We lacked some accuracy in finishing things off and we had the opportunity to put a lot more points on the board. But we were certainly back to some of the form we’d showed post-Six Nations."


Munster disposed of the Ospreys two weeks ago

And it’s that late-winter, early-spring form that Munster will need to produce in three days time if they are to march off into the summer with a third Magners League crown.

Leinster head west on the crest of an almighty wave having produced an heroic second-half comeback to become kings of the continent less than a week ago. They will arrive at Munster’s citadel in the best of moods looking to record an historic double on enemy soil.

McGahan has no time for those who say Leinster’s hunger will be lessened by their European success. Instead he expects the biggest of all battles…and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

"With the group they’ve got and with where they’ve got to at this point in time, they won’t want to let that slip. The opportunity to win two trophies in one season doesn’t come around too often so I’m sure they’ll be determined to get a result here on Saturday.

"I’ve certainly not seen a comeback like that in a final of that magnitude. To come back from 16 points down in a big game like that is a tremendous reflection of the belief that they have.

"The pathway they took to get to even the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup was certainly through one of the one of the most difficult pools there’s been. To then navigate your way through Leicester and Toulouse and then to come back in the second half of the final speaks volumes about the leadership group they have.

"That was really evident in the power and continuity they displayed after half time. To regroup and come back out with a change of focus, to execute and turn the scrum around was excellent.

"We’ve got recent history against them. We played eight weeks ago at Thomond Park and we were down 20-9 at half time so we certainly know about their ability to play.

"We turned that around in the second half to come back and get the result. We understand the strengths that they have but we also recognize what we can achieve too.

"With all the events that have gone on over the last two weeks, to end up at this point adds to a great climax to a Magners League season."