Prendergast says Munster taking nothing for granted as they prepare for Zebre test

Munster attack coach points to recent performances by both Italian national sides as evidence of their potential to produce an upset

Munster have won every one of the 19 league matches they have played against Zebre Parma but attack coach Mike Prendergast said they will be taking nothing for granted against the Italians when the teams clash again in Cork on Friday evening.

And with Munster in the wrong half of the table with a round of games already completed in the second half of the URC schedule, he knows the champions have little wriggle room having won just five of their league games to date, even if their ninth place in the table is just four points off Benetton in fourth place.

“We need to win every game, that is the pressure we want to put on ourselves,” said Prendergast. “This league at the moment is so tight. But you have got to get your performances and I think, looking back over the last couple of weeks, our performances have been pleasing. We are moving forward.

“A few young guys are getting opportunities, they are putting their hands up and there is that bit more pressure. A few back from injury as well . . . Joey Carbery, RG Snyman, Mike Haley . . . really important players, really good players. So that competitiveness pushes the bar a bit more.”

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A straight run of wins across 19 fixtures against the Parma side, who have only won once in the URC this season, might mean Munster management struggling to motivate the players. But Italy’s draw with France in Lille last weekend, coupled with their U-20s winning away to France and pushing Grand Slam champions Ireland all the way in Cork, means there could be a bounce from the Italians this weekend.

“I’m sure there could,” said Prendergast. “Zebre are a good side. They are probably a team that is underestimated, [but] not by us, they can score tries and they have lots of threats and lots of speed.

“We have scouted them and analysed them thoroughly this week and having a couple of extra games under our belt is very beneficial, especially coming off a good win against a good Harlequins team from last Friday night in what was a very good game of rugby.

“So our lads are coming into this in a good frame of mind and a good place and we will need to be because even though they only drew the [Six Nations] game and they should have beaten France, there will be that bounce, including their U-20s win over France and their good performance in Cork against Ireland a couple of weeks ago. It will definitely be a good game and we are looking forward to it.”

The controversial manner in which Italy blew a glorious chance to win a Six Nations match on French soil for the first time has not been lost on Munster – or most other sides you suspect. Pablo Garbisi rushed a penalty which should have been retaken as France had not only stepped forward but their forwards coach William Servat was on the field between the kicker and posts acting as a water boy. Prendergast said the incident was duly noted.

“We would work on different scenarios, particularly with Mossy Lawler, our skills coach, who would work with the kickers. He would have all those bases covered.

“And sometimes it does come down to those moments and we would train in certain times and certain areas. . . if you have less numbers or if you receive a card and different scenarios. So it challenges players and keeps them fresh but in a scenario like that which is a small bit different, that would be done with Mossy.”

Prendergast said it was a big boost to have Jeremy Loughman, Tom Ahern and Craig Casey back from Ireland camp as they bid to step up the defence of their title.

“It’s great to have them back. They have been in with us training since Monday, they brought plenty of enthusiasm and energy. They are coming from a camp that is in a really good place and they get exposed to great coaching up there. They are three players with their own strengths and it’s great to have them back and amongst us.

“We are in a really important phase in the season, every win and every performance is massively important at this stage,” added Prendergast.

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