'It's hard to have perspective but it is needed' - Why critics slamming Munster are forgetting some important points
Despite suffering one of their most chastening European defeats against Racing in last Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final, Will Slattery and Luke Fitzgerald feel there are positives that Munster can take as they look to finish the season strongly.
Munster went down 27-22 in Bordeaux to the Parisian side but the scoreline flattered the southern province, who let Racing escape into a 24-3 early lead after some terrible defending.
As well as their leaky rearguard, Munster's lineout and attack also malfunctioned, with the team shipping plenty of criticism in the aftermath.
On this week's episode of The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, Slattery and Fitzgerald dissect where things went so badly wrong for Munster, but urge fans to take a big picture view.
The team rallied excellently despite losing head coach Rassie Erasmus mid-season, with Johann van Graan doing brilliantly to lead the side to big European victories against Leicester (twice), Castres and Toulon despite a lengthy injury list.
While Slattery feels Munster are a bit off lifting the Champions Cup, he thinks there are plenty of mitigating factors that work in Munster's favour when assessing their campaign overall.
"Munster have got a lot of criticism with people questioning whether they are anywhere near good enough to win the Champions Cup," Slattery said.
"Personally, I don't think they are good enough at the moment to win the Champions Cup but when I look back on this season, they were the third favourites to win that pool with Racing, Leicester and Castres and they won it. Home and away wins against Leicester, beating Racing, almost beating them at the U Arena, beating Castres and drawing with them away. That is a really good set of pool results.
"Going up against Toulon and you are missing Keith Earls, Chris Cloete and Tommy O'Donnell and digging out a heroic win in Thomond Park. The only thing you have to be sickened with is how terrible they played against Racing. If they had even given a good account of themselves you would be saying, this is a good achievement and we may have even overachieved a bit.
"Johann van Graan came in just before the Leicester back-to-backs and that could have gone pear-shaped. It is very hard after that performance to have a helicopter view but Chris Farrell and Jaco Taute have almost been out for the entire season too.
"It is hard to have perspective after giving your worst performance in the biggest game but it is needed."
Fitzgerald added that along with the addition of Tadhg Beirne, the Munster coach will get a full pre-season with his squad to build ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
"All is not lost there, once they get their injured guys back, van Graan will have a whole summer with them," he said.
"Tadhg Beirne is a serious player. Having another guy in the second row, those guys will win you games like Scott Fardy. They make such a difference. If you have a great second row pairing, look at Saracens the last couple of years, it drives the team forward."
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