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Munster live in limbo land with big name exits

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Antony Foley

Antony Foley

Antony Foley

Here we are, not for the first time, with the demise of Munster bringing all the old familiar forecasts.

Will the two-time European champions forever look back on 2006 and 2008 as islands of remarkable times? Or can they become a force for future glory once again?

"It's been a long few days. A very long few days. A very dark few days. We're all gutted, shattered, whatever word you want to use," said coach Anthony Foley.

It doesn't look too good, at the moment, as Foley holds true to his roots and the fundamentals of Munster's game, taking them away from Rob Penney's width and back towards the percentage approach.

The gate receipts have been falling, the once raucous atmosphere has been quietened, JJ Hanrahan has taken the boat to Northampton and Paul O'Connell won't be too far behind as his career winds down.

The Ireland captain is to Munster what Brian O'Driscoll was to Leinster, not just a special player, but a presence that makes everyone around him better.

The simple truth is Munster carry three first-choice Ireland players in O'Connell, Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony and a foreign legion led by 35-year-old tight-head BJ Botha and the soon-to-be naturalised CJ Stander.

What other club would prefer to turn an experienced full-back Denis Hurley into an inside centre when Hanrahan is crying out for game time?

Hanrahan is the most gifted back to come through the province for many years as a genuine out-half with a tendency to play heads-up rugby.

OLD TRAITS

This is not Foley's template. He likes to work to a formula, a script that encourages, even re-establishes the old Munster traits.

The cupboard is relatively bare in terms of what is coming along the conveyor belt too.

For example, the Ireland U20 squad for the upcoming Six Nations was announced on Wednesday, containing a list of 30 names. Leinster account for 14, Ulster for seven, Connacht for five and Munster four. It has been thus for a long time at the Age Grade levels.

The immediate concern is that Munster rediscover the physicality that sparked a comeback at Sale in round one and bowled over Saracens in round two.

The good news is that they shouldn't be too inconvenienced by the Six Nations as they turn their eyes back towards the PRO12 League.


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