Munster captain Paul O’Connell believes his team can bounce back from their 30-0 Magners League drubbing against Leinster on Saturday night when they kick-off their Heineken Cup campaign at Northampton on Saturday.
O’Connell was a late replacement for the shell shocked Munster team at the RDS on a night that saw Ireland prop John Hayes red carded for stamping on Leinster counterpart Cian Healy.
Hayes now faces a lengthy ban following an IRFU disciplinary hearing and is certain to miss the Heineken Cup opener in England, but O’Connell believes his team can use that heavy defeat as inspiration on Saturday.
“‘Everything needs to improve from last weekend. I think if it does, we have a good chance at the weekend,” said O’Connell at the launch of the Heineken Cup.
“I think it will be a big motivation for us having had such a disappointing performance last Saturday. We did none of our basics well and that’s the most important thing you do.
“Going away to Northampton this weekend and going away to Perpignan are going to be incredibly tough games, so we’re going to be concentrating on getting out of our group first and foremost.”
Leinster coach Michael Cheika, who may quit the defending champions at the end of the season according to reports, is also adamant that the slate will be wiped clean for his team this weekend.
The Blues meet London Irish at the RDS on Friday night in their first game as holders and Cheika said, “When it comes to Friday we’re both going to be starting at zero and it’s about who plays better that night that wins.
“We just have to be really honest and work as hard as we can. It’s a home game so we’ve got to do our best in front of our fans and just be hungry to get in their face as much as possible.”
Meanwhile, Munster coach Tony McGahan has defended Hayes after his red card and maintained there was no malicious intent in the incident with Healy.
McGahan said, “We feel that he was just trying to find the ground with his foot. We certainly feel confident that John will be held in high regard as he is and his record will speak for itself.”
Lions and Munster captain O’Connell added, “I reckon Hayes probably meant to ruck the player. It would be disappointing to lose him to suspension, he’s been great for us for a very long number of years.
“I don’t know how it’s going to go, we’ll have to see that but hopefully he won’t be gone for that long.”
Connacht lost 23-10 away to the Dragons in the Magners League, while Ulster beat Llanelli 45-24 at Ravenhill.