AS THE shameful debacle surrounding the FAI continues to unravel around them and all those who love the game, why is it that the GAA and IRFU continue to flourish and prosper?
Firstly, the IRFU and the GAA have many structures of deep and meaningful values that are stringently adhered to; secondly, both have morals that are worthy of being passed on from generation to generation; and finally and most importantly, they have a thought process in place that looks beyond today and into the future.
The GAA and IRFU governing bodies have some very clever people on their boards who will ensure that both organisations are left in a better place after they depart. The same cannot be said of the decision-makerswithin the FAI.
I am by no way suggesting these two bodies are perfect in any way, shape, or form but look at what they offer the youth of today.
Neither am I suggesting that all those involved in the FAI are covetous and full of their own self-importance. However, at the moment, it’s an organisation that resembles a western movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, and the only actors he scripted are of the cowboy disposition.
Despite a very poor showing in the World Cup, professional rugby on this island seems to be just getting stronger and stronger. Leinster are now viewed in many circles as the strongest club team on the planet, Ulster seem to be rising from the ashes, Connacht will always be the poor relation but on their day they can cause the biggest of upsets, and Munster finally seem to be moving away from their traditional gameplan, which may not reap the rewards immediately, but will do in time.
Tomorrow will afford head coach van Graan another opportunity to experiment with their new and more inclusive way of playing the game, and it is of utmost importance that they do not revert back to their old ways.
Change is never comfortable, and unless they look at the long-term picture and suffer the short-term losses, they will never evolve and get back to collecting trophies.
When you are tasked with an almost impossible assignment of playing against a side that are nearly unbeatable at home, it is regrettable that your injury list is rather extensive.
Tomorrow’s away test will have to be navigated without two fly-halves and a trio of front-rowers. Playmakers Joey Carbery and Tyler Bleyendaal are not available and front-rowers Dave Kilcoyne, Jeremy Loughman, and hooker Rhys Marshall are also on the injury list for this game.
I have no doubt that Carbery will be back before Christmas. However, I think it is time for Tyler Bleyendaal to really start thinking about putting his health first over his love of the game — which is incredibly hard to do.
Ever since the former U20 New Zealand captain arrived in Munster in 2015, he has been plagued with a neck injury that is not going away. I realise that certain injuries will live with players until the day they die, but any injury associated with the neck is something that cannot be ignored, especially when it is constantly recurring. I am not medically trained, and I don’t know how bad this latest injury is, but at this point, he needs to think of himself and his future.
The losing bonus point that Saracens took away from last week’s loss in Thomond Park has kept their hopes very much alive in this tournament and it is almost certain that Mark McCall will field his strongest possible side for this game.
What that means is that should McCall wish, he could go all-out for this game and potentially field a squad containing 17 players who featured at the World Cup, nine of whom played in the final between England and South Africa. It’s incredible to think that just one club could produce so many players for the English national team and if McCall does go full metal jacket, Munster will do well just to compete.
The last time Munster faced a full-strength Saracens side they just could not deal with the power that confronted them. The biggest problem Munster will have to deal with tomorrow is the Londoners making substitutions.
It is at this point that their squad strength really starts to show its true depth.
When you have an opposition bench that is loaded with players that would easily make your starting 15, it can tend to have a very detrimental effect on your mental approach to the game and instead of worrying about what is happening there and then, you tend to start worrying about what is going to happen next.
This is one of those games that if Munster are going to add to their list of miracles, they will have to put their bodies on the line.
Their line speed will have to be immense and at the point of contact they will need to win all those gain-line battles that keep players like Billy and Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, and especially Owen Farrell from gaining territory.
Any missed tackles will be ruthlessly exploited, and unless Munster’s set pieces can yield a favourable return for their efforts, the game willquickly turn into a damage-limitation exercise.
No one really gives Munster any hope of winning this game. However, if they can somehow manage to grind out a losing bonus point as Saracens did last week, it could well be the difference between them participating in the knockout stages or having a few unwanted weeks off.
These are the games when the big names must stand front-and-centre and take a bit more responsibility upon their shoulders.
One player who needs to up his game by a good 25% is Conor Murray.
After a very, very poor World Cup outing and some average displays in the red jersey, Murray needs a big one.
Going on current form, he is not the best number nine in the country and unless he shakes off whatever is curtailing him from a return to his commanding ways, his days of standing to attention for ‘Ireland’s Call’ will soon be a thing of the past.
Legends are created on days like tomorrow and it will take for all the starting 15, plus the subs, to play well outside their comfort zone to win this one.