IN terms of enjoyment values, I think I would rate this game as motivating and interesting as having my toenails pulled off with a rusty pliers.
OK, it wasn’t that bad, however, there were extensive periods in this tie where both Castres and Munster showed zero ambition with the ball in hand, and I can guarantee you that neither side will come within an arse's roar of winning the competition, that is if the competition even gets to the completion stage?
The modern game that has been moulded and defined by World Rugby almost demands that if you are to be successful you need to play a brand of rugby that involves taking risks, moving the ball at pace, and keeping the ball alive before, during and after the tackle.
At this stage, I like many other folks who follow Munster rugby with such intent are sick to our back teeth of watching Leinster, Connacht and even Ulster now playing a style that is strong in values, able to adapt to the laws with competence and more importantly make the sport enjoyable to watch whilst Munster continue to bang the same predictable drum, game, after game, after game.
Some may argue that the most important thing is to win and that is exactly what Munster did on Saturday evening.
Well, my argument back to them would be, how many years have Munster now been trophy less and can you see them winning something this year judging from the level of performances they are producing?
In order to win a competition like the Heineken European Champions Cup you need one of two things.
The first is an endless supply of cash or a few individuals who are prepared to fund a team full of established world class players, or secondly you need an influential embryonic process to be in place that is able to nurture our homegrown talent whilst also integrating a sprinkle of over seas players and at this time Munster have neither.
Yes, we have some very promising young players who have great potential however, unless they are allowed to develop and grow in an environment where they have the freedom to learn from their mistakes, they will either move away to greener pastures or they will decay like ripened fruit that is left unharvested.
Occasionally, we are treated to the odd play from the Munster players that looks like it was devised in modern times by someone who knows what they are doing, but more often than not when Munster play, we have to endure a brand that resembles something that was formulated by a man who’s job is to create new flavours of ice cream, but the only ingrediencies he has to work with are milk and vanilla extract.
Normally, I am very slow to criticize any one particular unit in a squad set up however, in Munster’s case I find it very hard to look beyond Johann van Graan, Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree in this instance and it is the latter two that I would attribute the most culpability upon.
I fully realise that van Graan and Larkham have handed in their notices however, if Larkham and Rowntree were strong enough characters they would have the balls to stand up and publicly question van Graan’s somewhat neanderthal blueprint on how rugby should be played.
Larkham, who retired from international rugby in 2007 was a genius with the ball in hand and was equally adept with the number fifteen or ten jersey on his back.
If you ever wanted a great example of watching someone play the game with a heads-up mentality, Larkham is your man and I know it is just killing him that he is not allowed to fully instigate his philosophy of running rugby on this Munster team.
Perhaps if he had known van Graan was going to depart before he handed in his notice, he might have stayed on and taken up the South Africans spot in the car park.
I think Castres probably tried a bit harder on the night to entertain however, when you consider they didn’t travel with their strongest team that paints a very telling picture that their focus is firmly placed on their domestic league.
On a positive note for Munster Ben Healy had a solid game in his first European Cup start and Patrick Campbell banked another eighty minutes of senior rugby.
Damian de Allende showed why he is a World Cup wining centre with a man of the match performance and all the substitutions got a run out.
I guess we can count our lucky stars that we actually got to watch a game of rugby because of resurgence of Covid, but when will we see Munster manufacture a four or five match string of games where we can honestly say they are moving in the correct direction?
If we continue to chase the goal without fixing and aligning the process, we will never reach the Everest of the game again and I’d be more than happy for Munster to lose every single game over a twelve-month period if at the end there was something tangible there to build on.
Munster’s next three games are against Leinster, Connacht and Ulster and I just hope and pray that firstly, all these games are played and secondly, Munster use them to further enhance the youth within their ranks.