David Corkery on rugby: Munster need a win not plaudits this Sunday

Reds impressed for long spells in the defeat to Toulouse but they must get the job done away to Northampton
David Corkery on rugby: Munster need a win not plaudits this Sunday

Niall Scannell, Jeremy Loughman and Craig Casey celebrate a scrum penalty against Toulouse at Thomond Park. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

THERE are not too many competitions these days where if you lose two games on the bounce, your chances of making it to the knockout stages are as good as over.

Last Sunday Munster lost their first game in this season’s European Cup to a very strong Toulouse side that came to Limerick with only one goal in mind, and that was to win.

From the first to the last play of the game, Toulouse didn’t care if they won by one point or fifty, all they wanted to do was leave Limerick with a victory and they expertly deployed a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Having experienced the full crushing magnitude of the Thomond Park factor on previous occasions, and knowing fully how asphyxiating it can be, Toulouse arrived at the gates of the notorious setting with a game plan that wasn’t devised to excite or entertain.

It was a game plan that was simple in design, but masterfully executed by the world’s best half-back pairing in Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont, and it was solely built around their water-tight defence.

Perhaps the bitterly cold evening had something to do with its simplicity, but it was clearly obvious that every pass they made and ball they kicked was implemented to keep Munster as far away from their 22 as possible. The last thing these French Galacticos wanted to do was allow for the 16th man to get fully rallied up and the easiest way to do that was shut the entrance door to their 22.

SALVAGE

In the end, Munster deservingly managed to salvage a losing bonus point for their efforts. 

Should things not go their way when they lock horns with Northampton, you would have to say that their chances of making it to the last 16 would be as likely as Harry Kane setting up a school of excellence on how to take penalties.

One major deficiency in Munster’s armoury over the last 10 years has been their inability to alter how they go about their business in the heat of battle.

Under the coaching dictatorship of Johann van Graan, Munster were brainwashed into thinking that the only way forward was to kick the ball as high as they possibly could and just hope that when it returns back to earth that their chasing runners might be able to retrieve it in a more advantageous position on the field.

It was predictable as night and day, and last week no matter how many times Toulouse kicked the ball out of their 22 and down the field, Munster ran it back time and time again with very little to show for their efforts, but some very pummelled bodies.

I just couldn’t see why someone on the Munster coaching ticket or one of the decision-makers on the field didn’t alter the structure of how they were dealing with the tactics.

Munster players clap in honour of the late Doddie Weir. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Munster players clap in honour of the late Doddie Weir. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Joey Carbery doesn’t have the awareness that is required to lead Munster out of the hole they find themselves in. What Munster need in the number 10 jersey is a player who will not be afraid to challenge the way their coaches are requesting them to play and break the rules if they see fit.

I’m also not suggesting that they sign a loose cannon who wants to play a helter-skelter version of the game, but someone who has the balls to take calculated risks and not be afraid of the consequences.

Someone who isn’t afraid to walk into the middle of his pack of forwards and tell them that he is no longer willing to accept the quality of ball they are supplying him with and that they are playing like a bunch of 10-year-olds who are afraid to stand up and be counted.

Is Jack Crowley the answer? Well, the only way we’ll ever find out is if he is afforded the opportunity, but playing him in the centre or at full-back is never going to afford us the opening to judge.

Munster’s opponents on Sunday also have some questions of their own to answer after they were completely steamrolled off the park by Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle and will be looking to regain much of the credibility they lost.

To say that the tie was a one-sided affair would be putting it mildly because at halftime the Gallagher Premiership side trailed the hosts by 32-0 and as a contest, the game was dead in the water.

So in essence, what we have on Sunday is a game that both sides must win or face the excruciating reality that after two games, their respective European escapades are over.

I would also like to mention that if Munster can’t find a way to beat this very poor Northampton side, they don’t deserve their place at the table to feast with Europe’s elite.

That may sound callous, but it’s the truth.

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