Friday 20 October 2017

Comment: There's plenty more to Munster's revival than emotion

Billy Holland of Munster celebrates following the European Rugby Champions Cup pool 1 round 5 match between Glasgow Warriors and Munster at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow. Victory means Munster top the group and secure a place in the quarter-finals. A victory this weekend over Racing 92 at home would secure a home quarter-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/ Sportsfile
Billy Holland of Munster celebrates following the European Rugby Champions Cup pool 1 round 5 match between Glasgow Warriors and Munster at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow. Victory means Munster top the group and secure a place in the quarter-finals. A victory this weekend over Racing 92 at home would secure a home quarter-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/ Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

For many, the question surrounding Munster's remarkable run, which has seen them win 11 of their last 12 games, is: how long can they continue to draw inspiration from the legacy that Anthony Foley has left behind?

While the players are unquestionably fuelled by their former coach's untimely passing, even when Foley was with them at the start of the season, major progress was being made.

Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have both been a breath of fresh air since they have come into the set-up but there's a couple of other key factors that have also played a major role in Munster being back where they feel that they belong - in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup, with one game to spare.

Firstly, the importance of the move to one training centre in the University of Limerick cannot be understated and at times this season it has almost been glossed over.

While it was a long time coming, up to last year, 18 players were based full-time in Cork, with the rest split in Limerick. Since then, 12 have made the move to the Treaty City permanently, while the ones with young families have remained on Leeside.

Countless hours were wasted travelling on a dreadful road between the two cities over the years. It is the little things nowadays that has helped bring the squad even closer.

Billy Holland is one of the longest-standing members in the squad, and at the start of the season, he summed up the subtle improvements:

"I was over in Dave Foley's house for a barbecue last week. I've been playing with Dave for years and I've never been in his house. That is mad."

Munster are enjoying a bright spell thanks to Rassie Erasmus’ regime which has seen the side train together at one location and initiate a new recruitment drive. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster are enjoying a bright spell thanks to Rassie Erasmus’ regime which has seen the side train together at one location and initiate a new recruitment drive. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rory Scannell, another Cork native, echoed Holland's thoughts by saying:

"Obviously I wouldn't have known a lot of the Limerick lads on a personal level that well, so it is great to be able to meet them after training for coffee, grub and have those little chats."

Meetings can now take place more spontaneously rather be planned days in advance and the state-of-the-art training centre that has been built in UL is a far cry from anything Munster have been used to in the past.

Secondly, the recruitment process at the province has been excellent in the last 12 months and it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon with Irish-qualified players such as JJ Hanrahan, Chris Farrell and James Hart set to bolster Erasmus' options next season.

The South African has brought in some quality players who have added hugely to the set-up.

Jaco Taute has been a instant hit both on and off the pitch and Erasmus deserves credit for the way in which he managed to twist the IRFU's arm in allowing the Springbok centre to stay until at least the end of the season.

Jean Kleyn has been outstanding in recent weeks and has added some much needed ballast to the pack.

The South African second-row is developing a very promising relationship with Donnacha Ryan and, again, Munster look to have a serious talent on their hands.

Joe Schmidt will also be monitoring Kleyn's progress as he will become eligible to play for Ireland in 2019.

Glimpses

Hooker Rhys Marshall also falls into the same category, and although he faces a tough task in shifting Niall Scannell from the No 2 jersey, the Kiwi has shown glimpses of why he was so highly thought of in New Zealand.

Add to that, the fact that the 'fringe players' have stepped up a level and are pushing for a regular spot in the starting XV, you can begin to see why Munster are going places.

They should ensure that their home quarter-final is in Thomond Park and Simon Zebo (dead leg) and Tommy O'Donnell (ankle) are both in line to play against Racing on Saturday. Peter O'Mahony (concussion) is following return-to-play protocols.

No one will be getting ahead of themselves just yet, but what is going on in Munster at the moment is something much more than them relying on sheer emotion alone.

Irish Independent

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