Friday 23 March 2018

Five solutions for Munster's problems

6 January 2015; Munster's CJ Stander speaking during a press conference. Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
6 January 2015; Munster's CJ Stander speaking during a press conference. Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor examines how Munster can turn their season around after their disastrous defeat to Stade Francais last weekend.

1. Make their tackles

For all the long-term solutions being offered, the fact that captain CJ Stander said after Saturday’s defeat that players are not putting their bodies on the line is a shocking indictment of the current squad.

Missed tackles have been a feature of Munster’s run of six defeats in seven games, starting with the dreadful first-half performance against Connacht in November. Sure, there are structural issues that must be addressed at training but the coaches can’t make the tackles for the players who need to man-up and make their hits.

2. Pick Scannell and stick with him

Ian Keatley’s confidence is shot, while Tyler Bleyendaal is constantly injured. When the Dubliner missed his first kick at goal in Paris, the confidence seeped from the team who followed that missed opportunity with a series of errors.

Outside him, Rory Scannell has been impressing at inside centre and nailed the touchline conversion after Keatley had gone off. The Corkman has demonstrated his ability to win games for Dolphin from out-half and has played at all age-grades for Ireland.

He is in form and playing well, in stark contrast to Keatley, who just can’t catch a break. It’s time to make that change.

3. Bring in outside help

Pat Lam has blended outside influence and indigenous talent in his backroom team and his young side have been playing with great skill this season.

At Ulster, Les Kiss recruited fellow Australian Joe Barakat  as his assistant coach to add to his team’s armoury, while Leinster brought in Kurt McQuilkin from New Zealand and hoped to appoint an experienced backs or skills coach before turning to Girvan Dempsey.

Whether Foley continues at the helm or not, it is clear that Munster need a mix of local voices and quality experience from abroad to bolster their skill-set and improve their gameplan.

4. Conduct a thorough, honest review

Foley is willing to ask himself hard questions and that should set the tone for the entire organisation.

Later this year, they finally move to a combined base in Limerick and that should be used as a fresh start for the organisation to build a new legacy.

Munster have a habit of circling the wagons, but whether it is following up Alan Quinlan’s suggestion that Declan Kidney come in and conduct a review or asking another external party to take a look at what they do, it is clear that they need a shake-up to ensure they can begin to grow again.

5. Open up new pathways

No one is happy with the relegation of the Ulster Bank League as a path-way to the top, but Munster cannot spend time pining for a lost time; they must face up to the current reality.

They must ask themselves if they are getting the most out of their population. Why did it take 21 years of European rugby for their first player from Waterford to come through? How come they remain reliant on two private schools to unearth talent in their biggest city?

The conveyor belt at Leinster and Ulster is producing a steady stream of players, but if Munster’s isn’t then they need to innovate and infiltrate non-traditional areas in order to spread their base and ensure they are making the most of the talent available within the province.

Irish Independent

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