David Corkery: Munster rugby lost its identity through outside coaching appointments

'If van Graan was such a fantastic coach, why didn’t Erasmus include him in his South African coaching ticket?'
David Corkery: Munster rugby lost its identity through outside coaching appointments

Munster head coach Johann van Graan hasn't taken the team to the next level according to David Corkery. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

BEFORE you read this article and before I give you my perspective can I ask you to think long and hard and label the Munster that you see today in a single sentence?

Honesty required, and expletives allowed.

For me, identification is so important to any sporting organisation and in many ways, it determines their future pathway and how successful they can become.

It must also be protected at all costs because without it, you are nothing more than just another name in a season’s fixture list and all that you ever stood for will soon be lost amongst those who have no ambitions but to maintain their status quo.

Identity is who you are, the way you think, the way you are viewed by the public and the characteristics that define you.

I also believe that a large portion of your uniqueness is defined by how you deal with or camouflage the truth, and this is where I believe Munster have let themselves down.

For many, the truth is very hard to accept. However, if you are good at plastering over the cracks and clever in how you deal with external pressures, like the press and social media, you can bluff your way through the lean times. Yet there will come a point when you must accept the reality and pay the price. That time came and went a very long time ago for Munster rugby.

Munster rugby has now endured 10 years of watching other teams step forward to accept silverware at the end of the season. I know how painful it must be for the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Billy Holland to watch their acquaintances from Leinster pop the champagne corks time and again.

Munster's Peter O'Mahony was a big loss through injury. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire. 
Munster's Peter O'Mahony was a big loss through injury. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire. 

To understand Munster rugby and the many moving elements that make it such a unique entity, you must have experienced it at all levels in order to be able to push the right buttons at the right times. 

So when you have a head coach who hails from South Africa, a backs coach from Australia and a forwards coach from England there is very little hope of those buttons being pressed in the correct order.

Please don’t get me wrong, as I am all for external influences to broaden the players’ skill set, and I’d be certain that these individuals give their all to better the Munster cause, but when you completely ignore the very essence that made you what you are in the first place all you are doing is cutting off your nose to spite the face.

Recently, Peter Malone departed as Munster academy manager and his successor was interviewed by Australian David Nucifora, the performance director of Irish Rugby, Johann van Graan, and Peter Smyth, the IRFU head of elite player development who played for Leinster.

Now, can you please tell me where is the Munster identity here and where is it in the coaching ticket?

The answer is nowhere.

At this point, I think it would be prudent to bring Munster’s former coach Rassie Erasmus into the picture. As we know Erasmus left Munster one year into his contract and very successfully returned to his native South Africa.

Van Graan then arrived at the gates of Thomond Park on the back of Erasmus’s strong recommendations and the rest is history. 

The question I must ask is: 'If van Graan was such a fantastic coach, why didn’t Erasmus include him in his South African coaching ticket?'

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

IMPORTS

Overseas players have irritated me for some time, stemming from my playing days when Dylan O'Grady, David Erskine, Dion Ó Cuinneagáin and more started turning up at Irish training sessions and deprived the likes of Anthony Foley, Victor Costello, Eric Miller, myself and Mick Galway our place in the Irish team.

I’d have had no issue if they did their time in this country and worked their way into the team like the rest of us. To just arrive at a training session one week and be picked to start seven days later, left a very sour taste with me.

Last week Munster announced the signing of South African forward Jason Jenkins, who has come on the back of CJ Stander's surprising departure and will look to partner his former teammate RG Snyman when he returns from injury.

This now means that Munster will have three South African second-row forwards on their books for next season which is a complete kick in the teeth to Fineen Wycherley, Gavin Coombes, Thomas Ahern, Paddy Kelly, Eoin O’Connor and Kevin Seymore.

Cork duo Gavin Coombes and Shane Daly. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Cork duo Gavin Coombes and Shane Daly. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The upcoming and new Pro14 Rainbow Cup will allow for Munster to have another crack at winning something, but Europe is where Munster need to be prevailing. It is the only benchmark they must use to gauge their success.

Munster used to be a team for the everyday person in the province, but somewhere along the way it lost its connection with the clubs, schools and universities, and now it belongs to the accountants and corporate market.

Their road ahead is long, but I’d rather start the journey now and achieve success by having the proper structures in place.

A quick fix is no good to anyone.

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