A fantastic 15 of overseas rugby players who wore the Munster jersey with pride

A fantastic 15 of overseas rugby players who wore the Munster jersey with pride
Doug Howlett, Munster, in action against Clermont Auvergne. He was one of the Reds' most successful overseas important. Picture: Pat Murphy/SPORTSFILE

MUNSTER fans will be hoping that new signings Damian de Allende and RG Snyman will bring that extra ‘X-Factor’ to Thomond Park that can help Munster to win trophies again, in the same manner in which some of the great Munster imports managed down the years.

Here we compile the greatest import XV to have represented Munster in the pro era.

15. Shaun Payne: Christian Cullen may have been Munster’s marquee signing at full-back but it is the classy South African who has easily been Munster’s best import in the No. 15 jersey.

Payne was a super servant in red from 2003 to 2008, and it was a great shame that he was never capped for Ireland despite being Irish qualified through his Sligo grandmother.

Munster's Shaun Payne goes over for a try against Benneton Treviso at Thomand Park. Picture: Brian Arthur/Press 22.
Munster's Shaun Payne goes over for a try against Benneton Treviso at Thomand Park. Picture: Brian Arthur/Press 22.

14. Doug Howlett: The highest scoring All Black of all time was always going to be a hit at Thomond Park, when he arrived in 2008, but by the time he retired in 2013 he was a veritable club legend.

Howlett’s 37 tries scored in 114 appearances were invaluable to the cause, and he was even named Munster captain for the 2012-13 campaign. Perhaps his proudest moment came when leading the Munster Haka against New Zealand in a packed Thomond Park in 2008.

13. Rua Tipoki: The first ever ‘foreigner’ was Sundays Well’s Sean McCahill who wore the No. 13 jersey in Munster’s first ever Heineken Cup tie against Swansea in 1995.

Since then a number of quality imports have worn the jersey, from Rhys Ellison, Mile Mullins to Casey Laulala, but someone who had a massive influence in his time at the club was the maverick Maori Rua Tipoki.

He only made 29 appearances, but Munster always looked a more complete team with Tipoki in the centre.

Munster's Rua Tipoki tries to get away from Wasps' John Hart. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.
Munster's Rua Tipoki tries to get away from Wasps' John Hart. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.

12. Trevor Halstead: Honourable mentions to Jean de Villiers and Sam Tuitupou, who had impressive seasons at the club, as well as the wonderful servant Jason Holland, but there was always only going to be one choice at inside centre, the six times capped Springbok Trevor Halstead.

Halstead was made for Munster. A solid, ultra-reliable ball carrier, he helped Munster finally seal the deal in the 2006 Heineken Cup, with tries in the semi-final and final, with his try in the second half against Biarritz in Cardiff proving crucial in Munster reaching the promised land.

Munster's Trevor Halstead looking to break the Newport Gwent Dragons. Picture Dan Linehan
Munster's Trevor Halstead looking to break the Newport Gwent Dragons. Picture Dan Linehan

11. Lifeimi Mafi: Although predominantly a centre Mafi was sometimes used as a wing, so therefore the man the fans nicknamed Larry Murphy is accommodated here. He made 141 appearances for the club and scored 14 tries, and was particularly influential during the 2008 Heineken Cup winning campaign, when he formed a brilliant centre partnership with compatriot Tipoki.

10. Paul Warwick: One of those players who isn’t fully appreciated until they’re gone, the Australian out-half was an exceptional pro, and perfect back-up to Ronan O’Gara when Munster were at their strongest. He was so good a place in the team often had to be found for him, and he often filled the role of full back with consummate ease.

9. Alby Mathewson: Being the only foreign scrum half to have played for the province Mathewson was an easy choice. He joined on a four-month contract in late 2018, but that contract got extended, and by the time he departed the club late last year he had already achieved cult legend status.

Munster’s loss will be Ulster’s gain next year.

Munster's Alby Mathewson is tackled by Maro Itoje of Saracens. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Munster's Alby Mathewson is tackled by Maro Itoje of Saracens. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

8. CJ Stander: Now an Irish legend, but Christiaan Johan Stander will probably go down as the best bit of business that Munster ever did.

He joined in 2012 and has scored 40 tries in 141 appearances, winning a ridiculous amount of man of the match awards along the way. Perhaps the greatest shame is that Munster have not won any silverware in his time at the club. Something that needs rectifying.

7. Chris Cloete: A cult hero practically on debut, it is impossible not to be drawn by his enthusiasm and a recklessness that sees him on the injury list a lot. The South African will continue to offer Munster options in the back row going forward.

6. Jim Williams: When you are in the same pack as Anthony Foley and Paul O’Connell, and named captain, you are clearly one hell of a leader.

5. John Langford: The former Wallaby was front and centre for the beginning of Munster’s great love affair with the Heineken Cup and is often credited with upping the training and fitness standards at a time when Peter Clohessy used to smoke on the team bus on the way to matches. Simply one of Munster’s great signings.

4. Jean Kleyn: An Irish international now after nearly four years at Munster, the 6' 8” lock did not have a great time of it at the World Cup in Japan, but quite simply Munster are a better side with him in the engine room. At 26 years of age, there should be plenty more to come from the giant South African.

3. BJ Botha: Locked down the Munster scrum 111 times from 2011 to 2016 after arriving from Ulster to sort what had become a problem position.

The fact that he stayed so long showed how highly he was rated at the club. A great servant.

2. Federico Pucciariello: OK, we could have gone for Andy Kyriacou here, who made nine appearances in the 2007 campaign, but we are going to accommodate the cult hero that is Federico Pucciariello instead.

Although predominantly a prop, the Argentinean born Italian international, could play anywhere across the front row, so we’re picking him at hooker.

Pucciariello will always be remembered for playing a huge part in the Heineken Cup quarter-final victory away at Gloucester in 2008 when he steadied the creaking Munster scrum, despite having not been in the original match day selection.

Munster cult hero Federico Pucciariello. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Munster cult hero Federico Pucciariello. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Starter Marcus Horan cried off before the off, and it took a mad dash from a policeman to fetch his gear from the team bus with the match kicked off. Freddy went straight in and the Munster scrum solidified immediately.

1. Wian du Preez: Munster got 87 appearances out of the reliable du Preez from 2009 to 2013. He was not the most high profile signing ever made by the club, but he was certainly one of the most dependable.

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