It’s easy to forget that professional rugby players are human.
From a supporter point of view, we expect them to be almost machine-like in their preparation and readiness for a huge game.
If they are physically fit, then there is no problem – they should go out on the pitch and be able to give a 100% performance.
For Andrew Conway and for many players, that just isn’t the case sometimes. Top players can still be plagued by anxiety, worry, fear and nervousness ahead of a big match.
Conway’s performance in that epic encounter against Toulon, which secured passage to this Sunday’s clash with Racing 92, will go down in the Munster tapestry of their European Cup journey but speaking to Pundit Arena this week, he admitted that the day of the Toulon game was a “rotten” day for him.
The 26-year-old missed out on Ireland’s Grand Slam through injury – the last game he played before the quarter-final win over Toulon was the final Champions Cup pool game against Castres in January. For Conway, it does give him confidence that he can come back in with a fantastic performance after such a long period out of the game but as he admits, it brings its own problems.
“Yeah, it definitely does [gives confidence]. The day of the Toulon game was a rotten day for me. You got anxiety about all sorts of things – worried about my knee, your fitness, your performance. Knockout rugby, there’s a lot going on and the head starts to play a few games with you,” Conway said.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, that puts you in a state of mind and a place where you know you’re going into some sort of zone where you know you need to be on top of everything.”
Although the Munster flyer is pleased with his performance in the quarter-final, he knows that he has to press the reset button and as head coach Johann van Graan consistently says, start at zero.
“It gives you confidence but it was also one 80 minutes and if I think I’ll be able to carry that [Toulon performance] through to Racing, it’s a fresh week, it’s a fresh game, there are a load of different challenges.
“I’ve played two games now so my headspace is in a different than that if I had to create a buzz or create an environment in my own self to perform as best as I can for this week, Toulon is gone now.”
Munster face Racing 92 on Sunday in Bordeaux with a kickoff time of 15:15 (GMT).