Gavin Coombes showed again why he's been Munster's best player but Rainbow Cup finale was a shambles

David Corkery on the last game of the Reds' season and the issues that plagued the competition
Gavin Coombes showed again why he's been Munster's best player but Rainbow Cup finale was a shambles

Gavin Coombes of Munster scores a try at Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma. Picture: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

IF there was ever a competition the majority of clubs will be happy to see the back of it, the Rainbow Cup would be right up there at the top of the list.

I realise the final has still not taken place and I would not be that surprised if it never actually materialises because whoever thought it would be a good idea to run off an intercontinental tournament in the middle of a worldwide pandemic should be sent forward for evaluation. As for those who sanctioned it, they should just be locked up with the keys thrown into the heart of a nuclear reactor!

Yet again, money assumed preference over integrity and the offer of €6 million from South African TV towards the European-based sides was just too hard to turn down by the accountants who now run our much-adored game.

I know if I were part of the Guinness marketing team, I'd be rather peeved with how the Pro 14 and the Guinness brand were associated with this farcical competition.

With games getting postponed because of travel restrictions, positive Covid results and the many different medical protocols that are in place to preserve the safety of the masses, it just baffles me as to how the organisers thought this Rainbow Cup was going to be anything other than a complete car crash.

If I were to pick a morsel of positivity from the games that did go ahead, it would be that some of the younger members of the various squads got invaluable game time, which is near impossible to replicate in any training scenario.

You could also argue that it is good for Benetton who failed to win a single game in the original Pro 14 tournament to have reached the final. Albeit it probably just signifies the level of importance that the other teams truly afforded it.

It would have been interesting to see how the final round of games would have panned out if there was something tangible on the line. However, I can guarantee you that by this time next year the Rainbow Cup will be nothing but a horrid thought and nobody will care too much who beat who and who ended up holding aloft the trophy.

RULE CHANGES

I am all for making the game a better spectacle and to use a tournament of this nature to experiment and tinker with a few laws was not a bad idea.

Of the three laws on trial, the red card replacement, the goal-line drop-out, and the captain's challenge, the only one that should be considered is the goal-line drop-out as it encourages positive play.

When I heard about the red card replacement, I actually thought it was a joke.

At a time when every effort is being made to make the game a safer sport to play, to have a player dismissed for foul play and then to be allowed to replace that player with another one from the bench after 20 minutes makes no sense whatsoever.

As for the captain's challenge... it actually goes against the veracity that the game is built on. 

It reminds me of school kids telling tales on each other to the teacher and then feeling all smug if their classmates are punished as a consequence. 

It also slows down the game and God knows that is bad enough already with the amount of time that is wasted on TMO intervention and scrum resets.

To finish the season with a win is always a nice way to tidy things up and for Johann van Graan and his Munster players, this is a season they will want to move on from very quickly.

Liam Coombes of Munster goes through to score a try against Zebre. Picture: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
Liam Coombes of Munster goes through to score a try against Zebre. Picture: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Beating Zebre is no great accomplishment especially when there is nothing to play for, however, for some of the younger players in the team it gave them a good shot of accomplishment and another opportunity to play with some of the more established senior players.

Gavin Coombes who managed to bag himself four tries on the night has unquestionably been Munster’s best player this year and has put himself very much in the shop window for Andy Farrell and the green jersey of Ireland.

I would even go one further and suggest that Warren Gatland should be keeping his number on speed dial should anyone of his backrow players fall to injury. Coombes may be young, but his power and speed are exactly what the Lions need in the very hostile environment of South Africa.

Craig Casey was his usual busy self and Joey Carbery banked another 60 minutes of which will stand to him for next season and Ireland's upcoming games against Japan and the USA which are scheduled for next month.

FAREWELL

It was great to see Billy Holland take a final bow and to do so on a winning note just allows for him to sign off a magnificent career in style. If there was ever a player who can say he left his jersey in a better place than when he first picked it up, Holland would be that player.

The world of rugby is moving at an incredible pace and it has many challenges ahead of it.

The pandemic has not exactly helped matters for clubs that are struggling and Munster have discovered the hard way that if you do not move with the times and constantly evolve, you will very quickly lose any momentum you have built up.

I will not say that next season is a big one for Munster because for the last 10 years it has been that way and the crossroads, they have been stuck at is become a very dreary and uninviting place to be.

Nothing but silver wear will satisfy the 16nth man and God willing we will soon hear its roar again.

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