David Corkery on rugby: No shortage of drama with Munster

A stunning win over Wasps, Covid issues at home and abroad, and the impending departure of their head coach: it's all go at Thomond Park
David Corkery on rugby: No shortage of drama with Munster

Tadhg Beirne and Peter O'Mahony after the unexpected win away to Wasps. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

WHAT a few weeks it’s been for Munster Rugby.

As the worst-kept secret in rugby gets officially announced that Johann van Graan will leave his position as head coach at the end of the season, the players both young and old, the coaching staff and all the other people that keep the Munster machine moving are left to ponder what the future has in store for them.

Apparently, Van Graan was offered a two-year contract extension but has turned it down with a view to taking up a position with Gallagher Premiership side Bath who are currently experiencing their worst season in their illustrious history.

I am sure everyone in the wider Munster rugby community will wish Van Graan all the best, However,this is good news for the province as I think the South African’s philosophy around how the game doesn't harmonise with Munster’s current circumstances and the fractious make-up of their squad.

Coaching at any level can be stressful, whether it’s the U12 B side in your local club or a team with Munster’s pedigree, you will be held accountable for whatever happens.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

When your side loses its all your fault, and when they win, its never by enough and people will always find faults that need to be fixed or improved upon.

It’s a no-win situation and while I would be 100% certain that Van Graan gave his all to his tenure in the driving seat, it was his refusal to change from his forward-fixated and box-kicking style of play that will have ultimately led to his departure.

It will be very interesting to see who the IRFU bring in to take over because no matter what way you look at it now, the Munster job is becoming somewhat of a poisoned chalice.

With nothing to show in their trophy cabinet but an accumulation of eleven years of cobwebs and periods of immense sadness, whoever takes the reigns will be immediately put under the spotlight and those in the terraces of Thomond Park will be demanding results that add up to trophy-winning seasons.

With the IRFU blazers in D4 already having to deal with the backlash from the lady’s game, when a group of 56 current and former women’s players wrote to the government to express their lack of trust in rugby’s governing body, this Munster vacancy will only add to their long list of torment.

At least the men’s Irish national side is doing well and when they are producing match-winning performances, it helps the bank balance because 90% of the IRFU’s revenue is generated through their endeavours.

Last week’s victory against Wasps will have been a major boost for all involved in the Munster camp, but for now, that must be put on the back-burner because arriving in Thomond Park tomorrow evening will be a French side stung by a very unexpected loss on their home patch by a Harlequins.

Castres Olympique will pose a completely different challenge to the one that Wasps threw at Munster in London. They will know that anything other than a victory will see their chances of progressing onto the knockout stages evaporate in what should be a packed-to-the-rafters Thomond Park.

Castres, who lie mid-table in the French Top 14, have some serious strike runners in their back division and if Munster continue with their kick, chase and hope style of play, they will be punished should they not execute their clearances with the highest degree of accuracy.

Playing in Thomond Park against Munster can be an extremely daunting occurrence for any side who have not played there before. Castres have had the pleasure on many occasions and they will be well versed in the kind of vocal and boisterous welcome that awaits them.

Up front they also have enough firepower to match most packs and with Munster’s scrum coming under all sorts of pressure against Wasps, the French will be targeting this facet of the game, with particular focus on the Munster front row.

The news of Joey Carbery’s latest injury blow is bad news for the development of this Munster squad. 

I think there is a bigger picture to look at in this instance because when you have had as many setbacks as Carbery has had, all focus must be put on the mental wellbeing of the individual.

At 26 years of age, Carbery has already had a desperate run of long-term injury’s and with this latest setback (an elbow fracture) requiring surgery, his chances of making it back in time for the Six Nations is very much up in the air.

Hopefully, the former Leinster starlet will remain positive, and his recovery time will be swift and successful.

Once Munster are cognisant that the tiger they are facing tomorrow is polar opposites to the kitten they faced last week, I have no doubt that they can chalk up another victory.

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