Bloody Foreigners

These bloody foreigners, coming over here, stealing our jobs. Especially in rugger. Wasn’t so long ago Ireland had a foreigner as captain (Dion O Cuinneagain) and the NIQs were coming in to teach us how to be good rugger players and explain that recovery from injury didn’t involve going on the lash – who knew?!  John Langford, Shaun Payne, Pippo Contepomi, Rocky Elsom, Johan Muller, etc have all passed through and left deep wells of knowledge.

But now we have largely succeeded in making the provincial playing pools more Irish – NIQs are now limited in scope and number, and the days of big name signings are gone (except in Connacht). Getting the balance right is never esay – the national side won a Six Nations this year, but the provinces are finding it increasingly tough against the French moneybags, possibly soon to be joined by English moneybags.  It’s a constantly shifting target and not easy to hit.

And we are still a little touchy about foreign players – when Joe Schmidt announced his squad this week, he had to defend the selection of Robbie Diack, who has qualified as a project player up at Ulster – here’s what he had to say:

“That’s a question for people over and above me. Players are either available or they are not. I think if Bundee Aki plays well and qualifies in three years, time he will be available to whoever is coaching the Irish team at that time to be selected. If they change the rules he may not be. As it stands at the moment I think there are some very good indigenous players and the vast majority of the squad is made up of those players.”

Now, there is an element of self-interest in some of those questions, as it was in the context of not selecting the likes of Tommy O’Donnell, Irish-born, who had been picked during the Six Nations. When it comes to, say, Jared Payne, in November, given we don’t have a plethora of obvious 13 candidates, one doubts this barrier will be thrown up.

This is especially interesting this week – and this is the point we were trying to get to – as Munster formally anounced their coaching ticket for next season. And, intriguingly, it’s an all-Irish one. In spite of the IRFU’s desire to limit the influence of for’dners, Ireland just can’t shake its fondness for Southern hemisphere coaches.  Not long ago there were four Kiwi head coaches across four provinces; the only thing that changed since then is that one went on to manage Ireland and was replaced by… an Australian.  As we know, Munster have chosen not to extend Rob Penney’s contract in spite of two successive HEC semi-finals and the successful transition from the bestest tactical outhalf ivir like to .. Ian Keatley.  The Belvo boy appeared to have inherited a poisoned chalice in taking the torch from RADGE, but all the time knowing that a local boy was waiting to take it off him.  But he has played to levels unforeseen by many commentators (ourselves included).

What Penney has achieved is to instill an adventurous and sometimes coherent style of play from a province perceived as being more comfortable with boot-and-bullock HEAVE type stuff. The aforementioned Keatley, Peter O’Mahony’s captaincy, Conor Murray’s journey to the best scrummie in Europe, the pack’s technical excellence all happened under Penney. Divvying up the credits is never an easy business, but between the players themselves, Axel Foley and Rob Penney, it’s largely been two years of gains.  Rog’s retirement was weathered surprisingly well, Paul O’Connell remains a totem and Stakhanov briefly re-invented himself as a winger. Epic-ish Heineken Cup wins against Globo Gym, Harlequins and Toulouse after four years of limping out of Europe get chalked up in the credit column and the eventual defeats were suitably close to go into the ‘heroic’ column.

And yet – he has never really fit in. Some of the team of the noughties (let’s call them Liginds) have persistently sniped at him for imposing a gameplan that the province are uncomfortable with – to be fair, for vast tracts of Penney’s reign, Munster have looked toothless and often gormless – but they have delivered when it matters, and have improved in every facet of the game since he took over. Very few rugby teams look good every week, in what is an increasingly fragmented rugby season.  Joe Schmidt’s Leinster came closest to consistency in the Pro12, but they were the first team since Leicester to win back to back European Cups, a rare breed indeed.  It’s hard to say that his reign has been anything but a success.

As Matt O’Connor is probably learning, it’s always easiest to blame the out-of-towner, and even Gerry Thornley’s assessment on Second Captains when asked if there was ‘any shame’ in how Munster lost the Pro12 semi-final seemed a little pointed, and alot OTT.  Yes there was, he said, given the manner of how it happened because they ran out of play twice.  Really?  ‘Shame’ in losing by a point away to a team that has become adept at peaking at this time of the season, because they ran into touch twice in the last 10 minutes?  Jamie Heaslip ran out of play twice when Wales beat Ireland in the 2011 World Cup, but you probably didn’t hear as much about it.

This is the backdrop for the appointment of the current coaching team – who have done nothing wrong here, let’s remember. From the outside, it always looked like the province wanted someone to come in, retire a few big beasts, bring through a few youngsters then hand the keys over to Axel – and that’s what has happened. They probably didn’t expect Penney to do as good a job, which will be Axels’ problem as he tries to live up to those standards. Or not, as he should get a decent honeymoon period.

So – to the Irish coaching ticket (all-Munster in fact) – it harks back to Deccie’s first stint in charge of Munster with Niall O’Donovan and co – a salt of the earth old-skool club coaching ticket. Jirry has been brought in as scrum coach, Micko as “technical advisor”, Brian Walsh as attack coach and Ian Costello as defence coach. A nice balance between Cork and Limerick, with nary an outsider in sight.  Lunch is sorted, fellas, it’s hang sangwidges and tins of lilt out of the back of Axel’s car, and we can all have a chat about the rubbish road from Cork to Limerick!

Where are they coming from?

  • Axel: currently Rob Penney’s number two, has spent time in the national setup under Deccie and the Milky Bar Kid. Generally gets credit for the packs technical skills, and is generally felt to have done a good job with Ireland too.  Although Penney was also a forward, so the real driver will become clear next year
  • Jirry: coming from joe.ie Arsenal, where he was on the conditioning side. With due respect, Arsenal’s conditioning at key moments of this season wasn’t spectacular – but that can’t be all his fault. This feels like a key personality to get on board, even if it might take time to bed into a coaching role. He has been uncomplementary about Munster’s younger players in the past and appeared to take a dig at Mick Galwey on his way out the gate from his playing days.  Jerry seems like an interesting, forthright individual, but in the same way that Foley is always heralded for his rugby brain, Fla never seemed to be a great rugby strategist; more of an instinctive wild man in fact!
  • Micko: er, he’s, er, played for the Baa-Baa’s. And has apparently “shown promise” in the coaching sphere
  • Brian Walsh: involved in the Academy, but most experience is with Cork Con in the AIL, where he won the league a couple of times
  • Ian Costello: former A team coach and Academy man, sports science/UL background

One must say, it’s a big gamble – every member of the coaching staff will be making a step up to a position they have never been in before. Most coaching tickets you see appointed have a few grizzled veterans or older hands in there to offer continuity. The gamble Munster are taking is that Axel provides the continuity and the chaps with familiar faces and accents will takes to Munster like ducks to water, ensuring a seemless transition. We must also say, it’s great to see a progression path for younger Irish coaches.  And while it’s more inward-looking than outward, it’s not that out of step with the way Leinster have gone about appointing coaches.  Matt O’Connor, Joe Schmidt and Michael Cheika all arrived as young and unproven, acclaimed for their role as second-in-command but untried as head honchos (at a big team at least).

It’s going to be a pretty steep learning curve for all of the ticket. So how will it pan out? Our guess is it’s unlikely to end with Donncha O’Callaghan on the wing.  And while that’s the case, it is probably wide of the mark to anticipate that the ball won’t go beyond the No.9 either.  While it’s tempting to see Foley as the ultimate old-skool Munsterman, warming-up by keeping the heat on in the car and shovelling in the recovery pints after training, his being “steeped in the Munster culture” has to be weighed against his oft-cited smarts as a player, which are presumed to inform a technically astute coaching brain that will be more than capable of imposing a modern and highly effective gameplan on the province.  So perhaps the ‘return to traditional Munster values’ (TM – the Cork Con meeja) won’t be on the menu just yet.  This is where the real fascination lies.  Everyone has had their suspicions that Foley and Penney have never been entirely ont he same page, and theirs has been an uneasy allicnce.  The direction in which Foley points Munster should give us a nice retrospective angle on whether or not that was the case.

Foley inherits a squad which looks pretty good, and is on an upward curve.  The emergence of Dave Foley, Sean Dougall and CJ Stander in the late season adds real depth to his pack and he will hope to have Donnacha Ryan and Mike Sherry for more of next season than he did this, and a rejuvenated Tommy O’Donnell would be a big help.  Robin Copeland arrives from Cardiff and James Coughlan ain’t done yet.  The likes of Kilcoyne, Cronin and Archer will be a year older and presumably better.  He has no real issues at half-back or in the back three – unless the outstanding Conor Murray ever gets injured that is, but he’s not the only coach who’s goosed in that eventuality.  If the two largely unknown quantities at centre turn out to be halfway decent, he will have every opportunity to keep Munster competitive.

He can expect an easier ride in the media than Penney got, because there will be huge goodwill behind him, and, how shall we put this, most of the key pundits are great pals with him!  But Munster fans will be as demanding as ever, and he’ll be expected to at least hit the marks Rob Penney did over the last two years.

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45 Comments

  1. Mike

     /  May 22, 2014

    Was o’cuinneagain not qualified through his parents? Foreigner is a bit harsh.

    • Think you are right – more a Herring than a Diack!

      Remember it thought – cringe-worthy – I can see why it was done at the time, but it felt like a nadir. The toe-curling anthem learning was hide behind the curtains stuff.

      • ArtVandelay

         /  May 22, 2014

        That’s a bit harsh on O’Cuinneagain. He seemed pretty sincere at the time, iirc. The nadir was Matt Mostyn.

        • Mary Hinge

           /  May 22, 2014

          I wouldn’t say that Art, at least Matt went onto play with Connacht for several seasons! Brian Smith, Chris Saverimutto, or Michael Bent I would venture to say were more “fly-by-night”

      • Mike

         /  May 22, 2014

        There was something odd about it at the time alright. He was crowbarred in there when there other candidates around much better suited. Keith Wood anyone? Conor O’Shea, David Humphreys, Elwood, Clohessy, Paul Wallace, Jerry Davidson and Mal O’Kelly and Victor Costello were all around at the time. Wood, Davidson and Wallace were Lions starters….

        • I think that was the nub of it alright, it felt like a real admission that we were incapable of being a proper team without someone from outside to tell us what to do.

    • D6W

       /  May 22, 2014

      According to Wiki, he was born in SA to Irish father, lived there all his youth, and represented them in 7s. He came to Ireland in 1999 via Sale, played for and captained Ireland, but retired and returned to SA in 2001, where he has lived since. Not harsh at all to call him a foreigner.

      • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

         /  May 22, 2014

        At least call him Dr. Foreigner!

      • Mike

         /  May 22, 2014

        How do you define it then? Learned your rugby in Ireland? Stayed after your career is over?Have an ancestral link? All 3?

        Is Simon Geoghegan a foreigner? What about Andy Ward? Isaac Boss? How’s about Jamie Heaslip for arguments sake (born in Israel).

        Rhys Ruddock (born Dublin) but raised in Wales? If he returns there after his career, where does he fit in?

        For the record, I’m against the residency thing (unless someone came very young like Tuilagi for England) as i think it devalues International Rugby. I don’t think Strauss for example should be allowed to play for Ireland. But when it comes to qualifying through ancestry (thinking Tom Court, Simon Easterby, Mike McCarthy, Dan Tuohy, Rob Henderson etc) its massively unfair to call them foreigners. I think they are as Irish as anyone.

        • D6W

           /  May 22, 2014

          I think if they represent another country at 7’s, that tarnishes their “Irishness” a tad, at least in Rugby terms.

          • Lop12

             /  May 22, 2014

            Playinig 7s also rules them out of qualifying under current regulations.

        • Rwcm1

           /  May 23, 2014

          And that recently retired ligind Yankee blow-in from San Diego …

    • Kelly Peters

       /  May 22, 2014

      Come on Mike they’re only considered Irish if they’re successful. If they don’t work out then they’re foreigners. Keith Gleeson = Irish. O’Cuinneagain = Foreign. Simon Geoghegan = Irish. Matt Mostyn = Foreign.

  2. Kelly Peters

     /  May 22, 2014

    The next 12 months should be interesting down in Munster as this new coaching ticket beds in. I’ve a lot of time for Foley so i hope it goes well for him but truthfully it could go either way. The ball park has shifted massively for next season with the new competition and more money so they’ll be paddling upstream right off the bat. But jesus some of the chatter has been ridiculous the last few days from all comers. I correctly assumed you lads wouldn’t fall into that trap. Too smart for that. The ongoing assumption (Munster and Leinster fans alike) that Foley et all will throw the last few years out the window, dust off the old playbook and stick the ball back up the jumper. Come on people, have a bit of cop on. As you point out Foley was always lauded as an “intelligent” player, who was fond of popping up on the wing fairly regularly. He’s steeped in classic Munster without being one dimensional. Anyone with even a passing interest in the game knows that style’s not going to work anymore unless you have a rotating unit of 8 behemoth internationals in the pack, another 4 on the bench and a world class 10 (ie Toulon), and even they realise they need a little sparkle in the backs.

    As someone involved in underage coaching I’m delighted that Brian Walsh has been called up to the big leagues. Lovely guy who likes his teams to play rugby and spent years sticking his head above the parapet bemoaning the IRFU’s lack of interest in the domestic game aside from the provinces. Once Penney announced he was leaving there was lots of chatter around the circuit about Walsh finally getting his shot and widespread enthusiasm and excitement. Himself and Costello are two guys from left field that are highly respected domestically and I’m glad to see them both getting the recognition. Rugby still seems stuck in the old boys club where lads who were good players jump to the top of the pecking order. Best coach I ever played for had limited knowledge of the game when he got into coaching but dedicated himself to learning his craft. He’d no preconceptions about the game but became a keen student of the game and developed a keen eye for designing and implementing a game plan. We need only look at football where there are more and more coaches of this ilk getting a shot. If we keep plucking coaches from abroad we’ll always be a couple of years behind the 8 ball. We need to find these forward thinking coaches and giving them a shot.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  May 22, 2014

      Good post, hopefully the hiring has no elements of scoring a political point about hiring indigenous coaches or some bullshit about “Munster culture”. We need all four provinces playing 1-15 heads up rugby and Foley needs to bring that.

      • Kelly Peters

         /  May 22, 2014

        Cheers for the compliment. My initial fears were a) there’s a stench of political maneuvering of it on two counts. 1) A heavy Cork influence to appease the mafia given the move to Limerick and having a Limerick(ish) head coach. b) the purse strings have been tightened and hiring a couple of big name local boys would calm the talking heads. Fingers crossed their both misplaced. As you point out we need all the provinces playing intelligent rugby

        • Great stuff Kelly, thanks for some insightful comments as well as a record number of mixed metaphors in your third sentence there!

          • Kelly Peters

             /  May 22, 2014

            I lost the run of myself there for a minute

    • Sound Steve

       /  May 22, 2014

      Good post but I really hope that the AVBs of the world don’t come across to rugby. I liken it to the workplace; if someone who has never done your job but has read an awful lot about it and seen it done on TV came in to be your manager – they would struggle for credibility. I’m not saying you have to be a 50-cap international but you should at least have a good AIL career in your back pocket.

      To be honest I don’t think you can fully understand the sport unless you’ve played to a good standard. To look at writing, Murray Kinsella is probably the most insightful around at the moment – Ireland under 19s, Munster academy and a good few years with Bohs. That said, a good playing career is far from a guarantee that you’ll be an insightful journo…

      • Stevo

         /  May 23, 2014

        You only have to read one of Alan Quinlan’s Irish Times pieces for proof of that….

      • Kelly Peters

         /  May 23, 2014

        I don’t think having at least a good AIL career should be a prerequisite or even considered. After all wouldn’t that have ruled out our current “messiah” Joe Schmidt. His rugby career was fairly non existent. You don’t have to have played the game to a high standard to fully understand it. That’s what the old boys club will churn out to keep their mates in the top jobs. Having played the game helps, especially when it comes to the technical bits like scrummaging, lineouts, defence etc but isn’t the be all and end all. Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe someone didn’t have the financial security to spend his early 20’s struggling for a living in the AIL. Maybe they just weren’t good enough. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a brilliant head for the game or the makings of a fantastic coach.

        The people I’m taking about are the guys who’ve been coaching the sport for years not the lads you bring up who’ve been sitting in front of the tv, reading books or even commenting on respected rugby blogs. You talk about credibility but that should be earned rather than just doled out on the back of a good playing career. Someone who’s worked his way up through the ranks (underage, schools, AIL etc) should’ve much more credibility as a coach than someone parachuted straight in from a great playing career IMO. Contrast the Martin Johnson era with the Stuart Lancaster era for an example. Most top professional sports have realised that ex pro’s don’t make the best coaches. Look at guys like Pete Carroll in the NFL, Gregg Popovich in the NBA, Dave Brailsford in cycling, Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho in football and so on. Guys with limited playing ability in their sports who are succeeding as coaches at the highest level.

  3. Kelly Peters

     /  May 22, 2014

    Also you lads are a bit harsh on Micko and Jirry. By all accounts Micko has long been a bit of a lineout whizz, making up for the obvious shortcomings of the rest of his game. As for Jirry he may have come across as a wildman on the field and not a great strategist but everything I’ve heard about him speaks to him being a guy who worked his ass off the get to the top. Be it scrummaging technique, lineouts or simple strength and conditioning he was always studying ways to get better. One of those lads who once he sets his mind on something he’ll do anything to achieve his goal. His career in rugby points to that, as does his success off the field. In just 2 years he’s gone from retiring and managing a pub to working at one of the top football clubs in the world, a director of a company running two successful websites, managing the bar and now coaching Munster.

    • connachtexile

       /  May 22, 2014

      Jirry did some coaching with Galwegians when he was with Connacht. Nothing major just some stuff with the thirds but all the guys were extremely impressed with his coaching. Even back thenyou could see he was interested and studious about the game. He worked with the guys on their line-out rather than scrum which is his remit with Munster but there is little doubt in my mind in the ten years since he’s kept studying and is obviously vastly more experienced than he was. Think he’ll do well.
      Reading the Munster forum a lot of the ‘fans’ on it already seem prepared to scapegoat the ‘all-amateur’ coaching staff at the first opportunity so if Axel gets a few bad results than he could be under more pressure than he realizes. Hope he proves them wrong though.

      • Kelly Peters

         /  May 22, 2014

        Munster fans are a strange bunch and that’s coming from a Munster fan. A fickle bunch at the best of times unless your one of the liginds. And they love a scapegoat. Dumper was thrown to the Wolves as was Penney. I predict the calls for ROG will come thick and fast if they struggle early on. I don’t know who’d they’d blame if they got the Axel/ROG dream team.

  4. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  May 22, 2014

    This is my first time seeing the coaching ticket Axel has selected. I’d be a bit wary; not sure any of them could be relied upon to challenge the top man as required which is a weakness in any set-up. Given this line-up I wonder was Eddie ever really considered? He’d have added much needed technical knowledge & experience & it would have been fascinating to see the dynamic unfold. However, based on these choices, is it a case that Axel does not want the kind of challenge to his authority that Penney may have endured from him? (& indeed that young master Gatland had to endure from Eddie back in the day!!) Which then begs the question: was Penney’s departure another Machiavellian ‘local hero shafts bloody foreigner’ manoeuvre out of the Eddie O’Sullivan playbook? A bit OTT I accept, but if Axel was not so well connected I suspect the conspiracy theorists would be having a field day!!!

    • connachtexile

       /  May 22, 2014

      Eddie was asked (allegedly) to be backs coach but turned it down down for the Biarritz job.

      • Kelly Peters

         /  May 22, 2014

        From what I heard he’d had talks with Munster but they weren’t ready to table an offer and Biarritz set a deadline. Seeing as he’d been out of work for so long it was an easy choice of Eddie. He’d have been mad to turn down a job like that in the hope the Munster offer would come, especially when you consider his recent track record in Ireland.

      • curates_egg

         /  May 22, 2014

        That’s the opposite of what is being widely reported. This diatribe by David Kelly is a massive dig at the IRFU (more than Munster) for shafting the most successful ever Irish coach http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/irish-game-will-rue-shameful-shunning-as-outcast-eddie-moves-on-30278794.html

        • connachtexile

           /  May 22, 2014

          I have no idea what EOS has on the Independent’s sports staff but it must be pretty salacious stuff.

          • If David Kelly’s love life is half as florid and reprehensible as his writing then I’d assume he has.

          • curates_egg

             /  May 22, 2014

            Seen it in places other than the Indo too: Axel was open to O’Sullivan but others in Munster weren’t. Academic really.

        • Kelly Peters

           /  May 22, 2014

          Sad thing is Eddie is exactly the type of guy we should be hyping up. Someone who started at the very bottom and worked his way up to the top. An innovative and technically proficient coach. DK aside every other top coach we’ve sent out into the world in the modern are ex-pro’s who initially got jobs on their names/playing ability. Whatever stink the Irish rugby mafia put on him was clearly enough to put teams off hiring him as someone of his quality shouldn’t have been out of a job for so long.

          • curates_egg

             /  May 22, 2014

            By all accounts, he rubbed lots of people up the wrong way… but Ireland were third in the world under him (twice I think) and regularly beating Safas and Aussies. Biarritz (for which he was not first choice) will be a tough task (there is a real rot set in there) but I hope it goes well for him.

  5. Small point of order but Penney was offered an extension, but it was only a year. A friend and I agreed that he might have gotten more time if he hadn’t stuck with Mannix, as it is the backs that have failed to impress, but Penney stood by his man to a fault.
    Also I think Jirry was responsible for academy strength and conditioning, not the senior team, but I could be wrong.

    I was one of the people who thought Penney must have fallen out with Stander but this year proved that he was very smart in terms of blooding young players properly over a time period that people perhaps hadn’t considered.

    I don’t think Munster will play up the jumper stuff per se but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that their strength is in the pack and their back row in particular will have a brutal mix of big carriers and tacklers next year. In addition Munster’s great weakness the past two years (apart from a lack of depth at nine) was the centre partnership. Downey never got the chance to play his natural boshing game, and Laulala was never on everyone else’s wavelength. With them both gone however 12/13 becomes even more complicated, as both of them at least played a lot of games, and no one knows what the Aussie is going to bring. Yet another reason why it might benefit Munster to play simple forward orientated rugby at least until they figure out who to play in midfield.

    • Lop12

       /  May 22, 2014

      You are correct on both points re Penney and Flannerys role with Arsenal academy.

    • Yep, we should have been clearer there; Penney was indeed offered a one-year deal but it appeared that it would have needed to have been a two-year offer to keep him. I think we wrote a while ago that the one year extension offer is the new way of getting rid of the coach without looking like you took drastic action!

      • seiko

         /  May 24, 2014

        According to a respected poster on Munsterfans, Penney only wanted a 1 year contract, had agreed it as it was his plan to go back to NZ/Japan then. Its just the job came up a year earlier than expected in Japan and he decided to take it.

        Couple of things with Jerry Flannery. I seem to recall from the 2009 Lions DVD Jerry taking a scrummaging session (before he got injured). He was certainly very vocal in it. ROG (in his column in the Examiner), has a lot of time for Flannery. Says that he will be the dissenting voice as he was never shy of taking POC on if he didn’t agree with something. If that is the case, Foley is to be admired for taking on someone who will challenge him. ROG also said he has great leadership & motivation skills and that anything he put his mind to, he did it 100%. Fla is an inspired choice from what I can see – there will be some crack at training every day.

        The real positive of this coaching team is that they all know they can work together well. There will be no need to integrate anyone into the team.

        Its worth remembering as well that Foley has gone for ball playing/creative inside centres (Bleyentaal/Keatley/JJ) so its highly unlikely that Munster will revert back to 10 man rugby (though if that means scoring tries like they did against Toulouse in 2000, I’d be all for it – some smashing tries scored that day).

  6. The road from Cork to Limerick is absolutely rubbish. I could talk about this at length.

    Good post, and hits the nail on the head in terms of the wider significance of this set of Munster appointments. In terms of the individual appointees, Brian Walsh is seemingly a very smart technical coach who could have coached professionally before, but had stuck with the day job. Cork Con haven’t necessarily torn up trees with their back play with him there, but it’s impossible to say that’s down to him or the player resources available to him. He’s the great unknown in all of this, but I find it difficult to imagine him being much of a step down from what we’ve seen from Mannix. That said, there isn’t exactly perfect clarity as to how he and Ian Costello (highly rated by the players but Munster’s skills haven’t necessarily been inspiring in the last two seasons) will dovetail, so it’ll be difficult to apportion credit or blamee. I won’t care much if we’re winning. Micko I have full confidence in, a smart player and a great captain who’s been exposed to a completely different rugby environment in the shape of Perpignan, and who’s cut his teeth at Con as well unless I’m much mistaken. He should take to coaching like a duck to water. Flannery is a bit of a harder one to call, but he was an extremely hard worker, with his darts exemplifying that, and his expertise on S & C will be of some use you’d imagine. (Just on that, he was working with the Arsenal academy rather than the senior team, so it’s doubtful if their injury crises/season meltdown can really be ascribed to him!)

    On Foley, his Munster A team played a very attractive brand of rugby when he was essentially head coach and I’d expect him to continue in that vein. The biggest indicator to that effect are the persistent noises that Tyler Bleyendaal has been signed to play 12. Getting in a relatively slight distributor to play as a second five-eighth is definitely not the behaviour of a man who wants to stick it up the jumper, although his kicking game should hopefully offer a second option on miserable rainy days at Thomond and Musgrave… I mean, Irish Independent Park.

    Lastly, glad to see you’re giving young Sean Dougall his due. I, for one, am outraged that he wasn’t selected for the Lions last year.

    • Re the last line – lol.

      Bleyendaal is an excellent player – really good – my first thought when I heard his name was how much better suited he would be to Munster’s outside backs that having Ooooooooooooooooooohhh James Downey in there

  7. Lop12

     /  May 22, 2014

    Good post and I certainly think the new coaching team is entitled to be scrutinised in this manner. FWIW, and what I would know of Walsh he will not be a yes man and will not be afraid to challenge Foley. The fact that he has not been in a position at this level before is, IMO, his choice rather than lack of options (pretty sure he had a very good job he was loathe to walk away from).

    The only point I an not comfortable with is your suggestion that “province perceived as being more comfortable with boot-and-bullock HEAVE type stuff”. Perceived is they key word here (not sure if you share the perception!!) becuase I think it is a very unfair assesment of their game plan through the 2000-2008 period. Without doubt they played smart, direct rugby, based on getting into the right part of the pitch to play rugby and force the opposition into mistakes close to their own line. The game was centred around accuracy in the set piece, defence and making correct %age plays. MOst definitely was not an offloading baa baas type of game but some of the scores they got over the years were out of the top drawer.

    Almost all of their truly excellent performances under Penney came playing a more direct style (Quins/Toulouse) and Id suggest a simpler more direct approach might have suited better against Toulon as well this season.

    • Perceived is indeed the keyword there! Certainly, the narrative of ‘boot and bollock’ is probably overdone and Munster played some pretty decent rugby when they wanted to over their dominant period, especially in 2008-09 when they looked like world-beaters before running into Leinster. That team had Mafi playing like rarely before or since, an emerging Keith Earls having a superb breakout season, Doug Howlett who was of course class and the crucial ingredient was Paul Warwick who was a really classy playr havin his best ever season.

      • Kelly Peters

         /  May 22, 2014

        Not to mention the day the Munster legend really started against Toulouse back in 2000 in Bordeaux. A Ronan O’Gara try that started inside the Munster 22 and involved 5 or 6 offloads in contact. Barbarian style stuff that’s largely been forgotten. A day where the Claw is rumoured to have predicted victory at half time when he spied that the Toulouse team were out on their feet while he enjoyed his customary half time fag outside the dressing room. Most likely fiction but a great story. Ah to be back there.

        • Lop12

           /  May 22, 2014

          Agreed, would suggest that Hayes try was possibily even better team score that day..probably two of the best tries Munster got in that era.

          • Lop12

             /  May 22, 2014

            Nah, scrathc that. Just watched ROG score again, sensational!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  May 23, 2014

            Any try that falls into the category of ‘started and finished by John Hayes’ is pretty special regardless of the bit in between!!

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