Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Playing to win or playing to please by David Clarke


A good day to be a Munster supporterMunster won the Heineken Cup this weekend against Toulouse. Both teams were previous winners and both teams have a distinct style of play.


The Munster side’s rugby tactics were “pragmatic” and “dogmatic”. In other words, they played to win and rarely wavered from the task in hand. Pretty it wasn’t, effective it was.


As it happens, I work in an office with a Munster supporter. She lives and breathes the ups and downs of the team. She will be smiling all week (when she eventually returns) and she won’t think that her team did anything less than please!


I have some sympathy for the Toulouse fans though. Their side came to play rugby, but were shut out by a physical Munster performance up front and the slippery surface inside Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.


Winning cups no doubt brings great joy. But perhaps playing with some style and panache counts for something as well. Contrast Munster’s victory with the national team’s similar style of play against Wales in the Six Nations. On that day, the side who came to move the ball around prospered, and the Irish team failed to score enough points to hold back the rampant Welsh.


I believe there is balance for every team between playing to win and playing to please. Ultimately, it should be remembered that the intrinsic motivational forces for each rugby player is different. Some players want “to win” more than they want “to play”. And sometimes the second leads to the first. That’s what Toulouse team believe. But tell that to the thousands of red-shirted Munster supporters drinking up Cardiff this May Bank holiday weekend.


7 Comments so far
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I must admit, I was pleased with the Munster win too. No one else here at the club was though ; can you imagine them slagging off our “pick ‘n go” rugby. :~ It’s was a thing of great beauty last Saturday ; 50,000 Munster fans can’t be wrong, can they? 😉

Comment by L'irlandais

Hi There, I agree with everything you say but as a Souyh African I have to say that winning the world cup twice sounds so much better than once, no matter how its done its the result that is remembered in years to come. Please visit my site at for some feedback

Comment by fdupreez

Munster had two or three excellent line breaks, one of which lead to a disallowed try for Howlett for a forward pass. If any of these line breaks had led to scores there would be no debate. Munster did what they had to do to close the game. Its how they play, its their style, always has been

Comment by EskimoRugby

Toulouse did not really come to play as they resorted to drop goal attempts very early.They started to play only when Pelous was codded by Leamy and by then it was too late to get any momentum

Comment by paddy fenton

Munster played that way cos it was the way to win. In the quarter finals against Gloucester both wingers scored tries and they passed it around all day. In 2003 when Martin Johnson and co. won the World Cup their pack was praised and the likes of Leicester and Wasps have won Heineken Cups with a big pack. Its merely playing to your strenghts.

Comment by Donal

Speaking to Paul Thornburn (the former Welsh full back) recently, he reminded me of the 1991 World Cup final. England had played on style most of the season and the World Cup. They got to the final, probably close to favourites against a skilful Australian team. However, stung by press criticism, England played an expansive game and lost. Whether they would have won with their original game plan (crushing teams with their forwards and kicking penalties), it is difficult to tell…

Comment by admin

Sorry bout delay in commenting (Family bereavement)and only now catching up with my emails.
I note your comment re Munster’s win and style. I also remember the comments/complaints of some of the Toulouse players after said final. It seems everyone is suffering from a mental block because for the last 5 mins of the semi, the same Toulouse team players “keep ball” with London Irish, just like Munster did to them!!

Comment by Ian Condon

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