Strings, Strings, he’s our Boy, if he can’t do it, Tomás will

The Ludd Revolution at Munster continues to grind on – retirements and injuries have knocked a few of the Liginds off, one was dropped this year (Donncha), and last week, for the first time, one of them left Munster by choice, albeit temporarily for the time being.
Strings has jumped ship, gone to join Sarries– the very anthesis of Munster – on a three month loan deal.  Perhaps it’s cathartic for him. He was no ordinary player – iconic for his size and bravery, and he won it all with province and country, and deserves better than to play out his last days in the British & Irish Cup.
Stringer was one of the five new caps introduced by Gatty against Scotland in 2000. From that moment until “Georgia” he was undisputed first choice for Ireland.  The overlap with his Munster first choice career was remarkable – for only 6 months either side of his Ireland career was he the red 9 of choice.
If you think of the landmarks in Irish rugby in that period – Munster’s European breakthroughs from 1999-2004, Ireland’s Triple Crowns, the win over England in Croker, the first HEC, the Grand Slam – Strings was there for them all. Yet there must be some caveats … and there is.
Strings’ professional career was largely governed by two men – Eddie and Deccie – and neither quite trusted him 100%.  At national level, Eddie frequently called up duff scrum halves and gave them gametime (Neil Doak, Kieran Campbell, GuyEasterby), not something he was ever renowned for in other positions. Then after the Namibia/Georgia debacles in France ’07, it was Stringer alone who paid the price, getting the curly finger for Eoin Reddan.
In Munster, Strings was dropped by Deccie as soon as Tomás O’Leary’s pass wasn’t absolutely terrible. Stringer’s much superior passing and game management were sacrificed in favour of O’Leary’s physicality and breaking. The circumstances of the chop were astonishing – a coach known for his conservatism replaces a mainstay of the team for an away HEC quarter-final! It was a shrewd call but nonetheless it was, and remains, cruel, and a sad way to effectively end Stringer’s career as a starter.
Stringer didn’t even get off the bench for the rest of that HEC knock-out campaign, and his next start of note was the semi-final against Leinster in 2009 – and we know how that went.  He started three pool games last year in O’Leary’s absence, but the last of those – the dismal capitulation in Toulon – more or less signalled the end of his Munster career as a frontline player.
It’s also a fact that when Ireland (the Grand Slam and the Springbok game in Croker were the peaks) and Munster (who were imperious in the 12 months from the Gloucester game) peaked, Stringer wasn’t in the team. The solid extra dimension of O’Leary (combined, it must be said, with the stinking ELVs) gave Ireland and Munster what they needed to get to the next level.

All the best to the wee man in Watford, and how ironic is it that Stringer’s most memorable contribution to Irish rugby was doing that what he apparently couldn’t do (Ryle: ‘He can’t make a break?!  Well, he’s just made one in the Heineken Cup Final!’:

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3 Comments

  1. A good player. His try-saving (game saving?)tap-tackle on Dan Luger in the re-fixed "foot and mouth" match in Lansdowne was brilliant. Most memorable however was the look on his face and frantic impersonation of roundballer Robbie Keane when Neil Back slapped the ball from his hands in the dying minutes of the HC final in 02. I hope his move works for him.

  2. Would love to see Strings finish his career out west, even if he goes to foreign shores for a while there's still plenty of rugby left in him and he might like to come back and finish his career in Ireland for the oul rebate. What do ye think lads, is it beneath him?

  3. @ El Greco He had an eye for a tap tackle alright – he knew it was his best chance!@ Connachtman To be brutally honest, I'd rather Frank the Dandy or Paul O'Donohoe right now…

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