David Corkery: Munster coaching ticket have serious questions to answer

David Corkery: Munster coaching ticket have serious questions to answer

Peter O'Mahony and Munster were left deflated on Friday night after yet another loss to Leinster... Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

BEING honest, Friday's game was poor but it was won by a magnificently efficient and clever side.

It’s always a great characteristic of any team to play well below their average best and still emerge victorious as Leinster did.

The former 'Ladyboys of Irish Rugby' did the exact same thing two weeks ago when Munster first came to the capital. 

Without having to shift beyond third gear yet again, all they did was just soak up all that the shockingly predictable and one-dimensional Munster threw at them.

For the life of me I just can’t understand what the Munster coaching team are doing and if I were Keith Earls or Andrew Conway, I’d be looking for a transfer as soon as possible. I don’t think Earls would ever leave his native province but I for one would not blame him if he did.

I could be mistaken, but I believe the only time Earls got his hands on the ball in the entire game was when Leinster kicked it to him. Conway had a bit more ball to play with but again that was only because Leinster opted to use the aerial approach far more often than they normally do.

When you have two of the most dangerous and instinctive runners the game has to offer and your only attacking strategy is the kick the ball in the air every time you have possession, you don’t deserve to win.

Leinster’s Hugo Keenan and Rory O'Loughlin tackle Keith Earls. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Leinster’s Hugo Keenan and Rory O'Loughlin tackle Keith Earls. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

I believe the coaching staff have serious questions to answer.

When Stephen Larkham was scouted by Johann van Graan to coach the Munster backline it was felt that the former Australian fly-half would transform the way the Munster backs went about creating space in order for the likes of Earls and Conway to score more tries.

If you were to look at this game and observe how Conor Murray or JJ Hanrahan put boot to ball nearly every time their forwards worked their arses off to win possession you would be easily excused for thinking it was Mick Galway or Peter Clohessy that were coaching the Munster back division. 

In fact, that is being disrespectful to Gaillimh and Claw because they have very clever rugby brains and they would not accept such an obtuse and unadventurous game plan.

When Larkham played with Australia he did so with such incredible vision and anticipation. He guided his backline like a great admiral, positioning his fleet in a time of war, and it just baffles me to see how he is inviting his players to play such a negative adaptation of the game. 

Whether it is van Graan that is devising the game policy and insisting this is how his players should go about their business or Larkham is, someone needs to sit them down and ask them to have a very close look at what is happening to Munster rugby.

The statistics will tell us that both Munster and Leinster had almost the same amount of ball to play with during this game and that their time in the opponent’s half was also very similar so why could Munster not convert at the same rate as Leinster?

You can argue that Hanrahan missed two very kickable shots at goal however, even if he did convert these opportunities into points, Leinster still would have won the game. If the game was played over a 48-hour period I truly believe that Munster would not be capable of scoring a try against a side like Leinster in a game where the winner takes all. 

There is just no adventure or willingness to take risks and when you are not prepared to step outside the box of boredom, any opportunity of breaking new ground is dead in the water.

Devin Toner and Niall Scannell fist bump after. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Devin Toner and Niall Scannell fist bump after. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

One of the real differences that stands out like a sore thumb when you compare these two sides is the management that Johnny Sexton brings to the field.

Sexton (35) who is now eligible to play veteran’s rugby just has it all and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The power to hold up players like the 110 kg Chris Farrell and South African World Cup winner Damian De Allende in a tackle situation, the tactfulness to give away a penalty in order to stop a try being scored and the leadership qualities that demands an unrelenting effort from his fellow players are just some of the individualities that make him the most complete fly-half this country has ever produced.

Sexton may have learned his trade from the imperial Ronan O’Gara however, he has developed these skills and brought them into a completely different stratosphere.

What this game has also highlighted is that players like CJ Stander are just too one-dimensional in how they play the game.

I am in no way questioning Stander’s loyalty to both club and country. However, World Class players have the ability to adapt and change how they must play in a certain situation and Stander is just a ball carrier who can easily be nullified as he was on Saturday night and with Ireland during the World Cup in Japan.

I don’t know what van Graan should do now or who he should be looking at signing. What I do know is that unless he completely shreds his current strategy and devises an entirely new approach to guiding Munster back to trophy-winning days, he will be doing himself no favours and the Red Army will turn on him.

Ten years is a very long time for any side to without a trophy, not to mention one of Munster’s global standing and admiration.

We live on in hope!

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