David Corkery: Six steps Munster Rugby must take to turn their fortunes around

A succession of disappointments have left fans frustrated at Munster's inability to contest for trophies like their rivals Leinster
David Corkery: Six steps Munster Rugby must take to turn their fortunes around

Conor Murray and Simon Zebo remain vital players in the Munster squad. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

WHERE to now for Munster? And how long will it take?

These are the pressing questions after another disappointing end of a season. 

I would love to think that Munster rugby will recapture the greatness that once scared the life out of any team drawn against them. However, we could have to endure more years of pain and suffering before that.

The result against Leinster’s B team and the performance against Ulster have taken Munster to a depth never witnessed before and the only good thing is that there is only one way they can go now. I hope!

Money plays a key role in determining who wins trophies these days but as Leinster have proven time and time again that if you put in place a structure to cater to the needs of a modern-day professional squad, money, or lack of it,  becomes something used by the weak when they have to deal with the hard questions.

Munster never needed buckets of cash before. The fear of losing brought the players to places where only the very brave or incredibly foolish would venture and more importantly their values were derived from their local clubs.

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Thomond Park was key too. But finals are rarely played in home venues and I am sick to my back teeth of listening to folk say 'If only they could have played them in Limerick...'

Munster haven't won a trophy in over a decade. Munster was sexy when they were winning. And Thomond Park and Musgrave Park, to a lesser extent, became the places to be seen.

Tickets became as rare as hens' teeth and often the corporate world took precedence over real fans.

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again that it’s not the bricks and mortar that gives a ground like Thomond Park its miraculous capabilities, it’s the supporters.

Limerick hurling has become the sport of the people there and if Munster sit back and allow their supporter base to dwindle any further the Thomond Park factor will just wilt away. 

I know the senior players had a big say in who was going to take over from Johann van Graan and while Graham Rowntree seems like a good fit, the former English international has never been the head coach with any team.

Johann van Graan and Craig Casey after losing to Ulster. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Johann van Graan and Craig Casey after losing to Ulster. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rowntree seems like a cool and calm character. However, when the weight of a province is placed firmly on your shoulders, pressure can take you to very dark places.

Rowntree will be aided by Denis Leamy and Mike Prendergast and, hopefully, these two former players will bring with them some of the old principles they left with and much of the new ideas that they learned on their travels.

Now for the players. It is simply not good enough to turn up one week and play as if your life depended on it, as they did against Toulouse, and then fail to back that up against Leinster’s second string and an Ulster side that are no way as good as Munster made them look.

Embarrassing, shallow and non-committal are just some of the ways to describe those performances.

And unless the players truly feel the pain they'll continue to tolerate those types of losses.

WHAT MUNSTER MUST DO NEXT

1. Put in place a system that works for the players available and stop looking abroad for the answers. 

Munster will only regain their true standing by being Munster.

2. Regain the backing of the true supporters and look after the clubs that feed them.

3. Nurture the future talent and treat them like humans, not just numbers.

4. The coaching staff must identify a brand of rugby very early on that is suitable to their players' capabilities and allow enough room to adapt throughout the season. 

New Munster coach Graham Rowntree. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
New Munster coach Graham Rowntree. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

In the last game against Ulster, it looked as if none of the players knew what they were doing and everyone seemed to be reading off a different hymn sheet.

5. Find a new first-choice fly-half. Carberry is a good player, but to wear the number 10 jersey for Munster good is nowhere enough, you need to be exceptional.

6. I left this one for last because I think it is the most important.

The players must indisputably hurt when they lose and take 50% of the blame because it is no longer acceptable for the coach to be put forward as the scapegoat.

Munster rugby claims to be built on honesty and it is glaringly obvious at the moment that honesty is nowhere to be found.

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