WHEN word leaked late last year that the World Cup winning Springbok duo Damian de Allende and RG Snyman were Munster bound in the summer of 2020 a lot of Munster fans would have been forgiven for wishing they could skip the remainder of the campaign and fast forward to the 2021 season.
Key players like Joey Carbery, Tyler Bleyendaal and Tadhg Beirne were crocked, the Heineken Champions Cup campaign was derailed in that year’s Pool of Death, and the Pro14 campaign was fast losing momentum.
Thanks to Covid-19 those Munster fans got their wish.
We do not know when Munster will next play a competitive fixture.
The cross-border nature of both competitions that Munster play in means that it will probably be a long time before they commence, due to international travel restrictions, rules around quarantining, etc.
The likelihood is that the first high level rugby that we will witness in Ireland post-lockdown will be in the form of some inter-provincial type fixtures.
This enforced break actually represents a wonderful opportunity for Johann van Graan’s side to press the reset button and hit the ground running on their return.
To be able to bring in four world class players of the calibre of de Allende, Carbery, Beirne and Snyman in one fell swoop will improve the province overnight. But that is just the start.
Matt Gallagher also joins from Saracens as an Irish qualified utility back, and could turn out to be a shrewd signing, although he’ll have to battle it out with the likes of Shane Daly and Calvin Nash for game time.
Perhaps the real benefit for Munster from this extra year ‘off’ could be in the time that it allows their talented emerging youngsters to develop physically, away from the pressure cooker environment of playing week-in, week-out.
Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Jake Flannery, Jack Crowley, Jack O’Sullivan, John Hodnett, Fineen Wycherley, Thomas Ahern, Keynan Knox and Josh Wycherley are the most likely in this respect to make the step up, and having potentially the guts of half a year, or maybe even more, to build up their bodies to deal with the relentless demands of pro rugby could end up being a huge blessing in disguise for this crop of talent.
The Munster S&C team will certainly earn their crust during these strange months, but you would hope to see the above group of players returning to the field with each of them filling out those red jerseys that bit more.
Having de Allende, Carbery, Beirne and Snyman (above) join a quality core group like O’Mahony, Stander, Murray, Conway and Farrell, with a long list of emerging talent to augment that sizeable leadership group, means that Munster could be in their strongest state of health in over a decade once rugby restarts.
Meanwhile, World Rugby has announced that tries will no longer be awarded when the ball is grounded against the protective padding around the post.
The tweak to Law 8, which becomes effective immediately, was approved following a recommendation from the governing body’s laws review group.
A brief explainer cited a lack of uniformity between the size and shape of protectors in use and the danger of “extreme cases” where defending players have lifted or removed the padding to gain an advantage.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, recently re-elected following a challenge by Agustin Pichot, said: “World Rugby’s mission is to make the game as simple, safe and enjoyable to play as possible. This law amendment reflects that mission.
“By stipulating that an attacking team can no longer score against the post protector and therefore must ground the ball in-goal, this gives defending teams a fair chance of preventing a try from being scored.”