Thursday 22 March 2018

Munster no closer to finding a solution to their midfield contract dilemma

David Kelly

David Kelly

Negotiate from strength, all the best strategists say..

If that is so, Munster are in prime position, on the back of a winning run which sees them fighting realistically on two trophy fronts, to bolster their already significant, relatively injury-free roster.

Not that Rassie Erasmus, who as director of rugby is charged with both future recruitment and current performances - now extended to seven wins ahead of this week's Champions Cup return match with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road - was giving much away.

On the contrary, he was keeping his cards much closer to his chest than he did in the giddy aftermath of Saturday's 38-0 win in Thomond, when he seemed to suggest that moves to extend Springbok centre Jaco Taute's medical emergency loan were already in train.


Yesterday, he rowed back significantly in terms of detail, although, given that both he and the player are open to the possibility, those details could be accelerated even though it appears certain other key conversations have yet to be held.

They are with the IRFU, who must rubberstamp their agreement with the club retaining two overseas international in the same midfield sector for this season only, not to mention Taute's current employers, the Stormers.

Erasmus confirmed that neither have yet been approached. He also added that, although there has been informal contact with JJ Hanrahan about the prodigal Kerry native's return, as revealed in these pages yesterday, nothing may happen until the new year on this issue.

Munster’s Jaco Taute and Francis Saili, pictured, at training in Limerick yesterday – the status of both centres appears uncertain right now Picture: Sportsfile
Munster’s Jaco Taute and Francis Saili, pictured, at training in Limerick yesterday – the status of both centres appears uncertain right now Picture: Sportsfile

Clear as mud, then.

"There's nothing yet," explained Erasmus on Taute. "It's only the last two weeks we've really been thinking internally if that's really an option.

"We haven't discussed it even with the IRFU, we'll give it until after this weekend. The A side are playing, we'll see how the young centres coming through are playing there, we'll see how Francis' (Saili, their Kiwi centre) injury is next week.

"And we picked up one or two injuries in the last week. Alex Wooton has a serious injury on his shoulder, so we'll have to make the right decisions, so probably early next week we'll start advancing on that.

"It's a case by case thing, you know. Even our plan, if it fits in well and we're doing it the right way, they would accept it, and that's what I want to make 100pc sure.

"I don't want to go there and baffle anyone with plans. I want to have the real reasons for doing things, so, if it's meant to be I guess it will happen.

"It wouldn't make sense to talk with the Stormers, if we're not going ahead on this side. He'll be keen to stay, Jaco really enjoys it.

"I think he slotted in well, him and the players enjoy one another, he's liking the whole set-up, so I think he would like to stay.

"But we haven't discussed it. We sat down as coaches this morning, then the A side is playing, we're playing, Francis is coming back next week. Then let's take proper stock on Sunday, and make the right decision.

"If it's allowed and fits in, it might be until the end of the season. . . if we look long term, we can't make that decision today, it will be Monday or Tuesday."

All of which may make the status of Saili appear a little uncertain, too, given that the IRFU would definitely not countenance the presence of two non-Irish qualified centres at the province next summer, should Munster decide to retain Taute.

However, Erasmus' apparently fluid thought process was also unwilling to countenance much in the way of clarification here either.

"Francis has been in great form," says Erasmus of a player slated to return in time for the festive derby with Leinster on St Stephen's Day in Thomond Park.


"I haven't coached him into, during or after a match, but he's one of the reasons. . . when I looked at the squad before I came here, and thought 'do I have the players?', he was one.

"I'd coached against him for the Blues, he's a fantastic player, totally different to Jaco, and I can't wait to get him back on the park.

"He had a real bad setback, he was supposed to come back just as we arrived but he was out of it.

"He's a fantastic player, there has never been a lack of effort on his part and he's keen to come back."

"So you see, that's the tough thing that we must now make with the calls after this weekend. There are so many things that fit in, they can play in different positions as well, so we'll have to make sure.

"And there's others. Keith Earls can play centre, there's so many things you must think about when you make these decisions."

Irish Independent

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