David Corkery on rugby: Game is evolving and Munster don't want to be left behind

Reds hosts Toulouse on Sunday but have it all to prove if they are to be considering contenders in the European Cup
David Corkery on rugby: Game is evolving and Munster don't want to be left behind

Peter O'Mahony of Munster can't claim possession in the lineout against Connacht at Thomond Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

THE English and Welsh rugby unions have given us great entertainment this week!

Nine months before the commencement of the 2023 World Cup, two of rugby's strongholds have decided it would be a good idea to change their coaching tickets; it seems like a very senseless thing to do.

I think both unions are just looking for scapegoats to mask organisational blunders and unless they take full control of their players, those troubles will work their way down to the grassroots of the game.

Wales issued Wayne Pivac his P45 and replaced him with Warren Gatland, who previously held the position for 12 years. This means that if Gatland sees out his new contract that runs up until the 2027 World Cup, he will have coached our nearest neighbours for nearly 20 years. It’s a monumental decision to make and it will be fascinating to see how it all evolves.

Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

And, just a short trip across the Severn Bridge, England probably felt they had no choice but to discharge Eddie Jones because of a significant wave of public pressure. The decision to end the Australian’s seven-year tenure came after a review of England’s dismal autumn campaign, with Jones’ players losing to Argentina and South Africa, battling back to draw with New Zealand, and only beating Japan.

These results meant that England suffered their worst year since 2008, having also finished third in last year’s Six Nations after losses to Scotland, Ireland and France. I’d love to say that my heart bleeds for them but, I’d be telling a very big lie if I did. 

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d see Ireland top the world rankings with England looking up at us from a very desolate fifth position. 

However, for now, our focus switches to the competition that afforded Ireland the platform to achieve such an achievement and we leave Wales and England to ponder on their decisions.

Apart from Toulouse and now Leinster, if you were asked to associate one team with rugby’s European Cup, Munster would once have been first on everyone’s list, but not any longer.

For well over a decade now, the various battlefields of Europe have yielded some very barren results for the men in the red jerseys. Where they once wreaked havoc on their opponents, they now rely on reputation and mythological stories of unbelievable comebacks and David versus Goliath encounters to give them a psychological advantage.

Going on current form, we would all like to think that Graham Rowntree has got his timing spot on with preparing his side to have a right crack off regaining the cherished European Cup. Considering the quality of the teams who are all chasing the same dream though, please tailor your expectations accordingly and don’t be too disappointed.

SOLID

Three solid victories in a row against, South Africa A, Connacht and Edinburgh should have given the entire squad of Munster a very welcome shot of confidence ahead of what is going to be a very testing opening encounter.

Having played and lost to Munster previously in the consecrated grounds of Thomond Park, Toulouse will take to the turf on Sunday confident they have enough nous to depart with a victory as they look to add a sixth crown to their list of European honours.

The French giants are ripping it up in their Top 14 domestic league and their squad is full of nothing but immensely talented players.

Fortunately for Toulouse, but very unfortunately for Munster, French international and former World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont’s appeal against a four-week ban for a mid-air tackle on South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe was upheld, meaning he is free to face Peter O’Mahony and his players for this game.

Dupont is the kind of player that has the ability to turn a game on its head and his availability will have given Munster’s backroom team an additional headache.

On paper, Munster should have no chance of winning this game, but the Thomond Park factor and the bit of momentum that they have acquired over the last few weeks are going to have a big say in the outcome.

A good start, a solid scrum platform and a reliable performance from Joey Carbery are all ingredients required if Munster are to claim yet another scalp to hang in their dressing room. 

Just remember that this Toulouse side are good. Very good.

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