Friday 21 October 2016

Munster in need of a more senior voice - David Wallace

Published 12/01/2016 | 02:30

Munster head coach Anthony Foley worked with Declan Kidney within the Ireland set-up and there has been calls for Kidney to return to Munster in an advisory position to assist his former captain Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Munster head coach Anthony Foley worked with Declan Kidney within the Ireland set-up and there has been calls for Kidney to return to Munster in an advisory position to assist his former captain Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Former Munster star David Wallace with retired Olympian Melanie Nocher at the launch of Swim Ireland's third 'Swim for a Mile Challenge' in the National Aquatic Centre yesterday Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

As someone who has played through the good and bad days with Munster, these are deeply concerning times for David Wallace.

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Unlike many of his former team-mates, several of whom are on the current Munster coaching ticket, Wallace has removed himself from the game since retiring in 2012.

Nowadays, the former Ireland and Lions flanker watches on as a Munster supporter but seeing another season unravel in such dire circumstances irritates him that bit more as he knows exactly what it takes and what it means to pull on the famous red jersey.

Saturday's dismal display in Paris ended Munster's Champions Cup involvement at the pool stages for the second season running while a third European defeat on the bounce racked up another unwanted record.

For Wallace, though, the problems with Munster Rugby run far deeper than what is going on on the pitch as he believes a radical overall of the entire organisation is needed and, in truth, he is by no means alone in having that view.


The 39-year-old has battled in the trenches alongside Anthony Foley, Mick O'Driscoll and Jerry Flannery down through the years but he believes that the province are crying out for a more experienced voice from outside the current set-up.

"It (Munster coaching staff) is very inexperienced," Wallace said at the launch of Swim Ireland's third 'Swim for a Mile Challenge'.

"They take a lot of ownership but it doesn't stop with them. There are people above them as well. The whole structure does need to be looked at.

"I think all those guys (coaches) are brilliant rugby brains. Their work rate is fantastic as well in terms of their coaching but I suppose when you look at it from afar, Axel (Anthony Foley) is in his first head coach role and all his other deputies are in their first professional roles really.

"You would think that Axel does need some help in terms of someone who has been there and done it before. Maybe Axel being the head coach and creating a Director of Rugby above him or whatever it is. Obviously that dynamic has to work well too.

"Sometimes when you're in it, that perspective is gone. Somebody who's been on the outside and can weigh up all those opinions. It is a bubble that they live in, unfortunately.

"I think having someone from the outside might be good. And certainly from a youth structure, an amateur point of the game, from all the other medical, commercial, corporate sides of the game, Declan Kidney would look at all of those and make changes as well. He'd see it as a whole and not just what happens on the pitch."

Wallace played under Kidney for both Munster and Ireland and he isn't the first former player to suggest that the province are missing a trick by not utilising his experience.

Since August 2013, Kidney has been overseeing sporting matters in UCC but Wallace is adamant that Foley and his fledging coaching staff need a more senior voice.

"I've been saying it for a while that he's (Kidney) an invaluable guy to have in any squad. When I was coming through in terms of getting a team together and building a team he's brilliant," Wallace enthused.

"He comes from a teacher background but is also a guidance counsellor and he understands how people think. He tries to create a community and makes sure that everything is looked after.

"He looks at it from maybe a slightly different point of view from your typical rugby coach. It's not just all about what's on the pitch. It's kind of three-quarters of what's off the pitch and that's the way he thinks.

"I think having him involved in Munster is always a benefit. He's still involved in sport down in UCC, running things there. He certainly still has a lot to offer."

Foley has yet to extend his two-year stay with Munster and his case won't have been helped by recent results.

Should the province introduce a new Director of Rugby role, there is a danger that Foley's position would be undermined but Wallace insists that his former team-mate should be taking all the help that he can get.

"I think it's a great time to be broaching it. This should be seen as a silver lining. It can be a catalyst for change and for doing things better," he maintained.

"Why not look at all the options and all the avenues and see where they can make the best and the quickest gains."

Despite the glaring inexperience of the Munster coaching staff, Wallace by no means rests the entire blame on their shoulders as he pointed to the performances of the players in recent weeks and in particular against Stade Francais last Saturday.

"The second-half performance generally, players seemed out of it - players who you hadn't seen all through the game and you want guys to be stepping up, taking control and ownership on and off the pitch.

"There is pressure on the coaches and then the players have to take ownership as well and they weren't up to that at the weekend.

"They're the guys out there and they need to take ownership of it because it was a very disappointing display."

Worrying times these may be and perhaps what is even more concerning for Munster is that it may get worse before it gets any better.

Irish Independent

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