Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

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Jonny tight lips
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Jonny tight lips »

Oldschoolsocks wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:52 am
So now the reason that Munster lost is that Joy Neville was afraid to tell the ref that Andrew Porter should have been given a red card.

It’s gas
Wasn’t even cited so move on

Last time they lost to us they were blaming the ref too, they are certain it was the refs fault yesterday.
Maybe it’s not always the refs??

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blockhead
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by blockhead »

Jonny tight lips wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:56 am
Oldschoolsocks wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:52 am
So now the reason that Munster lost is that Joy Neville was afraid to tell the ref that Andrew Porter should have been given a red card.

It’s gas
Wasn’t even cited so move on

Last time they lost to us they were blaming the ref too, they are certain it was the refs fault yesterday.
Maybe it’s not always the refs??
It's always the ref. Don't ya know nuttin?
Even when it's a team of Munster banch refs, it's the refs fault.
You know I'm going to lose,
And gambling's for fools,
But that's the way I like it baby, I don't want to live FOREVER!

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Jonny tight lips »

blockhead wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 12:05 pm
Jonny tight lips wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:56 am
Oldschoolsocks wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:52 am
So now the reason that Munster lost is that Joy Neville was afraid to tell the ref that Andrew Porter should have been given a red card.

It’s gas
Wasn’t even cited so move on

Last time they lost to us they were blaming the ref too, they are certain it was the refs fault yesterday.
Maybe it’s not always the refs??
It's always the ref. Don't ya know nuttin?
Even when it's a team of Munster banch refs, it's the refs fault.
Even when it’s not the ref fault ... it’s the refs fault.

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Dexter
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Dexter »

Jonny tight lips wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:56 am
Oldschoolsocks wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 11:52 am
So now the reason that Munster lost is that Joy Neville was afraid to tell the ref that Andrew Porter should have been given a red card.

It’s gas
Wasn’t even cited so move on

Last time they lost to us they were blaming the ref too, they are certain it was the refs fault yesterday.
Maybe it’s not always the refs??
Munster are like Wales, they are never beaten fairly. It's always the refs fault, they were cheated out of it etc. etc....
Dont Panic!

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Logorrhea »

Wales win stuff

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by blockhead »

Fanning has a big piece in the indo today behind the wall. Could someone post it on here?
You know I'm going to lose,
And gambling's for fools,
But that's the way I like it baby, I don't want to live FOREVER!

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Dexter »

Logorrhea wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 12:48 pm
Wales win stuff
:clap:
Dont Panic!

mildlyinterested
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by mildlyinterested »

blockhead wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 2:01 pm
Fanning has a big piece in the indo today behind the wall. Could someone post it on here?
An extraordinary audio message has been flying around parts of the rugby community in the last fortnight, especially in Limerick. Although not specifically the subject of the piece, Ireland’s rugby capital takes a few direct hits. The bullets were loaded by a current AIL coach and fired at one club in particular with theories to explain the mess that has unfolded there.

It is extraordinary because you’d need to be having a whole sequence of senior moments to commit something like this to a forum with all the tight-knit qualities of a string vest.

The monologue, which runs for almost five minutes, goes into some detail of what the coach thinks about the allegedly arseways manner in which the club in question is being run. It was delivered initially to a Dublin audience in a WhatsApp group. You’re not going to believe this but it was shared with outsiders, not just beyond the group but beyond the Pale.

Why this should have been deemed of interest to the Dubs is at one level encouraging, that they might be so open to learning from others’ perceived mistakes.

Even so, the candour and detail of the piece beggars belief. Wrapped up in the comings and goings on the coaching merry-go-round at this club, however, is the narrator’s clear conclusion that club rugby in Limerick, once predicated on an intense rivalry and loyalty, is a shadow of its former self.

This provided an interesting backdrop to events in the RDS last weekend. Another episode of the Old Firm, a local rivalry to stand alongside any other across the rugby world, had Munster backed into a corner: the prospect of a record sixth defeat on the bounce to Leinster. Coach Johann van Graan made the definitive coaching statement, and went full bore. In contrast, Leo Cullen in the blue corner parked some of his marquee talent on the bench.

The defeat felt like a 30-point hammering except with only a fraction of the margin — which heightened the pain. The Munster changing room had barely been cleared afterwards when their supporters were already deep into the post-mortem.

By the time they came up for air Stephen Larkham was briefing the press on how close Munster were to the team who have beaten them six times on the trot. For anyone who first picked up a red replica shirt after 2011, the date of Munster’s last time on top of a podium, this has become a rite of passage.

A couple of years before that 2011 Magners League final win over Leinster our colleague Dermot Crowe burst into the office of the sports editor and threw himself on the floor. This was not a unique occurrence.

This time, however, he had a point. A Clare man with a hurling correspondent’s brief, he begged for respite, and to be allowed onto the big ball beat. In between the sobbing and wailing the sports editor could just about decipher the message: Dermot would sooner stick needles in his eyes than write another feature on the crisis in Limerick hurling. Fair enough.

Three back-to-back All-Ireland under 21 titles from the turn of the century had been the equivalent of a slick sales pitch from Limerick, with no follow-up. A horde of men, women and children in green were convinced the journey to Croke Park on the first Sunday in September would be regular. Instead, nothing.

The only spin to Croker on the big day ended in defeat at the hands of Kilkenny. That was 2007, the meat in the sandwich of Munster’s Heineken Cup triumphs in 2006 and 2008.

Co Limerick loves its sport, but Limerick City is the spiritual home of Irish rugby, thanks to a unique set of circumstances: its appeal has always been broader than the private school set in Belfast, Cork and Dublin; Thomond Park was the scene for the defeat of the All Blacks in 1978, which spawned a stage play, a book, and enough newsprint to fill a warehouse; and Limerick clubs dominated the All-Ireland League when that competition breathed life into the club game post-1990.

It was the last bit that assisted Munster’s success in Europe and their absolute domination of the domestic scene for a decade, from 2000 to 2009. The AIL was probably the wrong model for the Irish game, as pointed out by former Ulster and Ireland coach Jimmy Davidson in an interview with BBC in the early days of the League.

He explained the provinces were the way ahead, supported by the club game. Was he mad? We were still breathing the intoxicating fumes of club games with crowds, games that involved travel to far-flung parts of the country, games that had actual points on offer to the winners.

Of course Jimmy was right. But the spin-off he might have missed was the canine factor: much of the AIL rugby was ugly and attritional but if you wanted to win then you needed a bit of dog.

We saw that from Garryowen on the opening day of the League, against Wanderers in Lansdowne Road. On it went. So while the AIL wasn’t providing Munster with the ideal all-round player it was at least giving them lads who didn’t lose the plot when backed into a corner. In competitive sport that counts for a lot.

Munster struggled with lots of other bits and pieces though. Their Academy has almost become part of Irish rugby folklore for taking so long to go from 0-60 miles an hour. The most colourful aspect of that yarn comes under the heading of ‘Copy and Paste’.

When the IRFU decided to devolve their National Academy into four provincial units we remember worried looks on the faces of Stephen Aboud and Willie Anderson, who between them had put together the programme for the IRFU Foundation in 1993, the precursor of the IRFU Academy. Indeed the Union thought of putting the academy label on it from the start but it sounded too professional. We still lived in amateur land.

Anyway, Aboud and Anderson feared standards would slip once it went regional. Like Jimmy Davidson, nobody was up for listening to that message.

Leinster got in on the ground floor, picking Aboud’s brain and seeing what would transfer successfully to their backyard. It took them a while to match the programme to what their environment demanded. It was all put together in a handbook. Munster photocopied the Leinster handbook.

We thought of that again last week as a Limerick rugby man, devoted to both club and province, neared apoplexy in his description of the state of play down there. “Why the f**k do we try and copy Leinster in everything when we’re different?” he asked.

As we’ve pointed out before, a key point of difference is population. It helps if you’re dealing with big numbers when trying to find quality. It helps if big business is on your doorstep and has no other professional sporting outlet to carry their brand. It helps if you have a sparkling new headquarters handed to you on a plate in a university setting not short on facilities.

Munster didn’t have this piggy back option. Yes, they have a top-of-the-range high performance centre in UL, but while the university tendered to get Munster on campus it wasn’t a gimme — rather a 15-year lease agreement that started in the summer of 2016.

Its arrival finally spelled the end for the crazy twin cities arrangement that obtained since the dawn of time, with players losing time and energy travelling the N20 between Limerick and Cork.

Garrett Fitzgerald, the late Munster CEO, used to dream of the N20 becoming the M20, but had to settle in the end for setting up in Limerick, a bitter political pill for a Corkman to swallow.

Some thought that was the final piece in the jigsaw. Some 12 years after Wallaby Jim Williams had complained of the madness surrounding Munster’s preparation — the insane travel, the lack of a supplements programme, the absence of a defence coach — they looked suited and booted and ready to challenge Leinster. Since then they have run through a raft of players and coaches.

The only one who seemed likely to give them what they wanted — the high king’s chair in Ireland as well as some silverware — was Rassie Erasmus. He was doing fine, supported by Anthony Foley, Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones, until answering his country’s call with a World Cup on the horizon.

Erasmus was loved in Munster but it’s worth remembering he bailed when he was busy telling us he was staying, and he left Johann van Graan’s number as a parting gift. It is inescapable that Van Graan, a hard-working man but a very conservative selector, doesn’t have the digits to dial up success on the biggest days. In Ireland that means beating Leinster when it matters.

You could ask what choice they had if their playing pool was so shallow and Leinster’s so deep? Call up the fellas who solved the Suez Crisis last week and dredge a bit wider and deeper.

The intriguing bit is that there seems to be private money available to buy in South Africans yet the pressing issue of talent generation never mobilised all hands on deck. If there was €600k for example to replace CJ Stander with Pieter-Steph du Toit, revised downwards to roughly half that for Jason Jenkins, why was there not cash to bump up the number of regional development officers in unproductive areas of the province?

David Nucifora is blamed for putting the mockers on the Du Toit deal, in the interests of good financial husbandry, even though it was private money rather than the IRFU’s. But why did the same Nucifora not display such parsimony when it came to central contracts for senior players no longer worth the wedge? Moreover, what did it cost the IRFU to part company recently with Peter Malone, whom Ian Costello — once a part of the Munster back room himself — will succeed soon as Head of the Academy?

Ironically, that part of Munster’s machine is producing a few senior players now, just as Malone is cut off. It’s worth remembering the Academy is not responsible for what comes in, rather what goes out. Naturally enough, there is a link between the two.

One of Leinster’s strengths is the oven-ready nature of their intake, which clearly makes what happens next a lot easier. The Munster intake now includes lads from Waterford and West Cork and Kerry, hardly hotbeds of development.

In a recent PRO14 game Jack Crowley, Darren Sweetnam and Gavin Coombes were all in the side, a milestone for Bandon Grammar and Bandon RFC. But what took so long? How can two schools, Pres and Christians in Cork, be responsible for 33 per cent of the input to the Academy?

And where are Munster on the quest to put together a group that understands and represents their identity? Jimmy Davidson used to marvel at the unique aspect each of the four provinces would bring to the national squad. But that was pre-professionalism.

The new dawn of pay for play was slow, but by now you can see how it tends to homogenise teams. If everyone doesn’t play the same way then they are not a million miles off each other, and the template for club structure seems to be industry-wide.

Carving an identity in that environment is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Critically you can’t present it in place of the nuts and bolts that should be there anyway: the playing and financial resources. It’s an add on. Football author and analyst Graham Hunter, who has written extensively about Barcelona — a massive club with a cherished identity — sees its value in a game gone money mad.

“In football, many clubs across the world don’t need it, don’t want it, don’t talk about it, and just buy excellence,” he says.

“And that’s enough. But where you can put the right bonfire together and then throw a bit of gasoline on it — where people believe either because they’ve come up through the ranks or because they believe in the identity — you can see it work. Much as you pay players €250k a week, and the top 50 players around Europe have all of that — they actually want to feel better, that there’s an identity. The ones I meet and talk to and watch — you can give them cars and cash but they all benefit when they can say: ‘This is our identity; this is who we are.’”

When Munster started the journey in earnest in 2000 their supporters contributed hugely to the identity. Most of them were probably sports nuts who would follow anything in season, but first and foremost they became Munster rugby fans.

Over the last 10 years they have risen to false dawns and gone to bed reflecting on near misses. They might consider yesterday’s defeat among them.

Today, if you were a rugby development officer hanging a right coming out of Thomond Park you wouldn’t be long hitting the junction with the Ennis Road. From there, a short distance to the left would bring you to the Gaelic Grounds, home of the All-Ireland hurling champions for two of the last three years. Or go right to Caherdavin, and Na Piarsaigh GAA club. Na Piarsaigh became the first Limerick club to win an All-Ireland title, in 2016. You’d wonder now how easily you’d win hearts and minds around that neck of the woods.

Ireland’s rugby capital didn’t need a WhatsApp rant to realise it is no longer a pushover for Munster. Their question is will it ever swing back.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by riocard911 »

"... central contracts for senior players no longer worth the wedge". Ouch!!!

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by MylesNaGapoleen »

mildlyinterested wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 5:50 pm

Ireland’s rugby capital didn’t need a WhatsApp rant to realise it is no longer a pushover for Munster. Their question is will it ever swing back.
fascinating piece. thanks for sharing Mildly.

I'm still baffled to why Munster keep signing saffers. is there too much competition from hurling/GAA in munster or are the academies simply not working?

GAA has a big draw in Leinster, more football than hurling to be fair but still.

It is almost 40 years ago...when Llanelli beat the all blacks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Kv9FXqs1k and now I am watching the scarlets kicking off the 2nd half against Sale at 0-23 in the heineken cup.

would be a shame to see munster head in the same direction...

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Keith »

riocard911 wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 6:13 pm
"... central contracts for senior players no longer worth the wedge". Ouch!!!
I'm still trying to get my head around POM getting a two year central contract. 1 carry against leinster last week... Id be fuming if he was here at Leinster taking game time off some of our young backrowers, let alone Ireland.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by ronk »

At this point Munster are either signing most oftheir players or developing them from outside the traditional strongholds.

In some cases there’s talent coming in and making a mark in the squad, but not pushing on. In other cases there does seem to be a development gap.

I think most of the problem is at Munster squad level not academy level.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by mildlyinterested »

ronk wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 6:58 pm
At this point Munster are either signing most oftheir players or developing them from outside the traditional strongholds.

In some cases there’s talent coming in and making a mark in the squad, but not pushing on. In other cases there does seem to be a development gap.

I think most of the problem is at Munster squad level not academy level.
not sure I agree there.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by ronk »

Munster haven’t had the raw academy input quality that we have but I think they’ve used what they got badly. I also think that if the top schools players couldn’t get into Leinster (& by extension Ireland) there would be a significant drop off in schools within a few years.

We talk now about the few Munster players in their 30s but even when they came through, they were the rare green shoots of a new generation (that never fully materialised). Most of the Munster team came through following a once off decision to develop youth early in the professional province era. Basically 1999-2002.

They’ve been trying to replicate that success for about 20 years without acknowledging that it was achieved with a sacrifice they haven’t since been willing to contemplate, let alone make.

Even that Golden Generation was led by taking a chance at international level (Scotland in 2000, was a big change following a big defeat at Twickenham).

In some lights Munster are finally doing it right again but on closer inspection they have had success in spite of themselves. Casey had broken through in spite of signing McCarthy and extending Mathewson. Daly made the Irish squad in the Autumn in spite of Gallagher arriving. If Ahern bolts it will be despite the best efforts of van Graan to recruit Jenkins at al.

I really thought we’d have seen more of Jack O’Donoghue by now but he’s 27 and still a squad player.

In Leinster academy players do a lot of their development with the senior squad. Most of them are thoughtfully eased in and we usually sign experience in a few key positions to compliment existing development. e.g. Fardy has moved around and chances have been given to Molony and Murphy.

I think the debate has been too focused on academy intake and academy programs, but the danger area (& Leinster get this wrong often too) is breaking into the senior team and moving off the bottom of the depth chart.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by blockhead »

Thanks for posting that mildly.
I remember Fanning writing something similar about 5 years ago.
He's not very popular down in Limerick.
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Dexter »

ronk wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 9:09 pm
Munster haven’t had the raw academy input quality that we have but I think they’ve used what they got badly. I also think that if the top schools players couldn’t get into Leinster (& by extension Ireland) there would be a significant drop off in schools within a few years.

We talk now about the few Munster players in their 30s but even when they came through, they were the rare green shoots of a new generation (that never fully materialised). Most of the Munster team came through following a once off decision to develop youth early in the professional province era. Basically 1999-2002.

They’ve been trying to replicate that success for about 20 years without acknowledging that it was achieved with a sacrifice they haven’t since been willing to contemplate, let alone make.

Even that Golden Generation was led by taking a chance at international level (Scotland in 2000, was a big change following a big defeat at Twickenham).

In some lights Munster are finally doing it right again but on closer inspection they have had success in spite of themselves. Casey had broken through in spite of signing McCarthy and extending Mathewson. Daly made the Irish squad in the Autumn in spite of Gallagher arriving. If Ahern bolts it will be despite the best efforts of van Graan to recruit Jenkins at al.

I really thought we’d have seen more of Jack O’Donoghue by now but he’s 27 and still a squad player.

In Leinster academy players do a lot of their development with the senior squad. Most of them are thoughtfully eased in and we usually sign experience in a few key positions to compliment existing development. e.g. Fardy has moved around and chances have been given to Molony and Murphy.

I think the debate has been too focused on academy intake and academy programs, but the danger area (& Leinster get this wrong often too) is breaking into the senior team and moving off the bottom of the depth chart.
Christ, I didn't realize O'Donoghue was 27, that's a good point about being a squad player.
Dont Panic!

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by Keith »

Dexter wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 10:14 pm
ronk wrote:
April 4th, 2021, 9:09 pm
Munster haven’t had the raw academy input quality that we have but I think they’ve used what they got badly. I also think that if the top schools players couldn’t get into Leinster (& by extension Ireland) there would be a significant drop off in schools within a few years.

We talk now about the few Munster players in their 30s but even when they came through, they were the rare green shoots of a new generation (that never fully materialised). Most of the Munster team came through following a once off decision to develop youth early in the professional province era. Basically 1999-2002.

They’ve been trying to replicate that success for about 20 years without acknowledging that it was achieved with a sacrifice they haven’t since been willing to contemplate, let alone make.

Even that Golden Generation was led by taking a chance at international level (Scotland in 2000, was a big change following a big defeat at Twickenham).

In some lights Munster are finally doing it right again but on closer inspection they have had success in spite of themselves. Casey had broken through in spite of signing McCarthy and extending Mathewson. Daly made the Irish squad in the Autumn in spite of Gallagher arriving. If Ahern bolts it will be despite the best efforts of van Graan to recruit Jenkins at al.

I really thought we’d have seen more of Jack O’Donoghue by now but he’s 27 and still a squad player.

In Leinster academy players do a lot of their development with the senior squad. Most of them are thoughtfully eased in and we usually sign experience in a few key positions to compliment existing development. e.g. Fardy has moved around and chances have been given to Molony and Murphy.

I think the debate has been too focused on academy intake and academy programs, but the danger area (& Leinster get this wrong often too) is breaking into the senior team and moving off the bottom of the depth chart.
Christ, I didn't realize O'Donoghue was 27, that's a good point about being a squad player.
Only a pup in Munster years.

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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by blockhead »

Isn't it extraordinary how it can creep up on you. JOD 27!
I really rate this guy, he is all action. Great attitude. His leg break in the 2018 semi was a bad blow at a bad time for the lad.
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

Post by mildlyinterested »

So Munster exit another Champions Cup, an anti-climax made all the more acute by coming up one game short against Leinster again in the Pro 14 final a week previously.

There remains the hybrid and still slightly hypothetical Rainbow Cup but that is not exactly designed to rock their boat, not least as it begins with yet another game against Leinster – the fifth between the sides since last August’s resumption.

In the last decade, Munster have reached three finals and five semi-finals in the Pro 14, and five semi-finals in the Champions Cup. That is commendably consistent when you think of it. No team has been banging on the door more regularly in that time without reward, even if that merely serves to worsen the frustration of the players, management and supporters alike.

Munster actually seemed further away in the post-mortems to other campaigns in the last decade when one thinks of heavy defeats by Leinster, Glasgow, the Scarlets and Saracens twice. But it still won’t appear much of a consolation to their supporters that they contributed so richly to Saturday’s last 16 tie in Thomond Park.

The general perception in both Irish and Welsh rugby is that the former have the better provincial system, while the latter achieve more in international rugby. In light of Wales winning their fourth Six Nations crown in the last decade Ronan O’Gara sparked an interesting debate about which is preferable.

Yet in the last decade, apart from Leinster, the other three Irish provinces have won one trophy between them, namely Connacht’s Pro 12 success in the 2015-16 season. Meantime, in the last decade, the Ospreys and the Scarlets have won a Pro12 each, as have Glasgow, while Cardiff have won the European Challenge Cup.

Of course, winning trophies is not the only barometer of a sport’s wellbeing in a specific country. After all, the four Irish provinces occupied the top two positions in each conference of the Pro 14, although the strength in depth of this competition has never looked weaker, as evidence by the nine defeats suffered on the pitch in Europe at the last 16 stage of both competitions.

This reached a nadir on Sunday when the Scarlets and Edinburgh, despite having all their internationals back, each shipped over 50 points in being completely overpowered by Sale and Racing respectively.

Yet as highlighted earlier, Munster have been winning matches way more consistently over the past 10 years than any of their Celtic rivals bar Leinster. Irish rugby has become over reliant on one province which is not healthy.

In the fallout of a fourth successive knock-out defeat by Leinster, the criticism coming Munster’s way was all the sharper
And therein lies the rub. A trophy-less decade feels all the worse when your main rivals have hoovered up nine major trophies – six Pro 14s, two Champions Cups and a Challenge Cup over the same 10 years. It’s akin to Manchester United running second in the Premier League while Manchester City are riding off into the sunset to claim their fourth title since United last won one, or Rangers watching Celtic win the Scottish Premiership for the last nine years up until this season and now it’s Celtic’s turn to look on. As well as no prizes, there’s no fun in finishing second.

In the build-up to the Pro14 final there had been an increased sense of optimism in Munster circles, emanating as much from their former players, that their team had their best chance in 10 years of winning a trophy.

Hence, in the fallout of a fourth successive knock-out defeat by Leinster, the criticism coming Munster’s way was all the sharper, and Leinster were not given full credit for the excellence of their performance.

But perhaps Munster’s chances had been overstated. Even missing a few frontliners and with some heavyweight players kept in reserve on the bench, Leinster had beaten them in three successive semi-finals and were three-in-a-row champions. Accordingly, whatever pundits and others may have thought, the bookies made Leinster five-point favourites.

Not for the first time, it was the manner of Munster’s defeat and the supremacy which Leinster enjoyed, even if Stephen Larkham had a welter of statistics to suggest otherwise, which prompted the general criticism of Johann van Graan’s side.

One former Munster player turned pundit maintained that Munster kicked too much. Another former Munster player turned pundit suggested they ought to have kicked more. In fact, Munster kicked the ball 18 times in open play, and Leinster 20 times. Similarly, last Saturday, Toulouse had 29 kicks to Munster’s 22.

One example in the Pro 14 final which was widely highlighted was Conor Murray box-kicking turnover ball outside the Leinster 10-metre line. Yet it was slowly recycled turnover ball and given Leinster’s superb and stifling defence, on a breezy day it was worth a punt, so to speak.

Murray slightly overcooked it for the chasing Andrew Conway, and Hugo Keenan gathered it, but it still led to a Munster lineout outside the Leinster 22.

Furthermore, Leinster regularly had 14 men in a defensive line on their feet, while keeping one player in the backfield. It was always likely that the Toulouse match, especially given the glorious conditions, would be a more open game, all the more so as the French team kept two, sometimes three and even four players in the backfield. Munster saw the opportunity to run the ball from deep, and did so to telling effect in the build-up to Keith Earls’s two tries.

Being consistent contenders, alas, brings no rewards or guarantees, and next season Munster will have to start from scratch again
Although Munster were able to field a strong starting XV in both matches, the greater impact of the Leinster and Toulouse benches was telling.

Another striking feature of both games was the ball carrying and all-round ballast which frontrowers like Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Julien Marchand and Cyril Baille brought to the two matches. All are frontline Test match animals and are aged between 23 and 28. Munster just don’t have frontrow players of that profile.

Viewed in that light, it seems puzzling that James Cronin hasn’t been offered another contract, as of yet anyway. There is a good crop of young players coming through who have been blooded this season and are being promoted to the senior squad. Yet the retirements of CJ Stander and Billy Holland also leaves a void, as does releasing JJ Hanrahan, for all the promise of Ben Healy, Jack Crowley and Jake Flannery.

The signing of another South African player in Jason Jenkins was not a good look in the week that was in it but now that next season falls more clearly into focus, one can see the rationale in signing a 6’ 7” once-capped Springbok who covers both the secondrow and backrow.

Being consistent contenders, alas, brings no rewards or guarantees, and next season Munster will have to start from scratch again. Yet with both the past and the future in mind, it seemed particularly important for Munster to end their trophy drought this season, not only for avoiding the sense of failure that goes with the ‘decade’ tag, but because the Pro14 will only become harder to win with the advent of the four South African super rugby franchises.

What’s more, as evidence by this weekend’s quarter-final line-up in the Champions Cup, the buoyancy of French rugby – allied to the increased seriousness with which more of their clubs are taking Europe – is only going to make that competition harder to win as well.
Gerry bemoans his beloved Munster

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ronk
Leo Cullen
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Re: Pro 14 Final vs Munster, March 27th. 5pm. @ The RDS.

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He briefly discusses the rugby itself in the middle.

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