Hugh Farrelly - (Irish Independent Rugby correspondent)
Published 19/01/2011 | 05:00
Have Tony McGahan and his staff delivered for Munster?
The win ratio is healthy, as is the Magners League record and the development of young talent and more mature players such as James Coughlan and Damien Varley. But Munster's success is judged on Heineken Cup achievement and the records show that, in this regard, the province has gone backwards. Alan Gaffney was an excellent Munster coach who failed to get to a Heineken Cup final and Declan Kidney's record of four finals and two titles is an intimidating backdrop.
Have the senior players delivered for Tony McGahan?
In the crucial games against Leinster in 2009, Biarritz last season and against the Ospreys and Toulon in this campaign, the big names have come up short. However, while their age profile stands against them, there is still tremendous quality among the senior backbone of the squad. It is now a question of surrounding them with a new approach and injection of vitality.
Have the overseas players delivered for Munster?
Yes and no. Doug Howlett, Wian du Preez and Sam Tuitupou have done well, with Howlett the pick of the bunch, but Jean de Villiers was a high-profile acquisition who failed to provide the Rocky Elsom-style inspiration Munster were looking for. Nick Williams was also a disappointment given his Super 14 pedigree -- he had fitness and consistency issues while hindering the progress of homegrown back-row talent. The jury is still out on Peter Borlase. A quality tight-head is a priority.
Is this the end of the line, or is there a next generation set to take over?
There is no question of it being the end of the Munster line but there will be a period of transition as young talent is brought through. Leinster and Ulster have received rave reviews for their academy structures when injuries have led to the introduction of fresh blood, but there is plenty of youthful promise in Munster also. The proof of that was demonstrated by the excellent performances against Connacht, Australia and Ulster within the past 12 months.
Is Tony McGahan the right man to take Munster forward?
Yes, as long as there is a major rethink on the problem areas of scrummaging and backline potency. Once the furore stemming from last weekend's pool exit dies down, McGahan will have the opportunity to experiment with new direction and personnel. If he can oversee productive Magners League and Challenge Cup campaigns, while bringing on younger players, it will be a significant stepping stone for next season -- though there may be changes to the coaching staff around him.