Munster need a different route to Leinster to scale the mountain

David Corkery says that a focus on the grassroots and club rugby will be crucial to Munster ending their long wait for a trophy
Munster need a different route to Leinster to scale the mountain

The Munster team huddle after the Heineken Champions Cup Pool B victory over Castres Olympique. Picture: Manuel Blondeu/Sportsfile

JUST because Munster and Leinster are both based in Ireland and they are governed by the one paymaster, please do not try to compare them. 

They are worlds apart, in terms of how they have developed over the last 15 years.

If Munster don’t reinforce their foundations soon, the slippery slope they are on now will get steeper and steeper. If Munster want to regain their crown, they need to reawaken their relationship with the amateur side of the game.

When you look at the unmerciful and ruthless dismantling that Leinster imposed on Montpellier last Sunday (89-7) and you compare it to Munster just about scrambling over the line against Castres (13-16), you would be forgiven for thinking that Munster and Leinster operate on completely different ends of the IRFU’s budgetary constraints. 

You would be wrong.

When you plan to reach the top of the world’s tallest mountain, you don’t turn up at base camp in a string vest with a rope and a pair of gloves. 

In most cases, it takes months if not years to prepare and plan such an ascent and I think this is where Munster are getting their processes mixed up.

When Munster won their first European Cup, they did so on the back of a very strong club representation in the All-Ireland League, where Shannon were virtually unbeatable and Cork Con, Garryowen, and Young Munsters were there or thereabouts.

Under the wise old head of Declan Kidney, who knew the schools, universities, and clubs of the province like the back of his hand, Munster also learned some very valuable lessons in their losses to Northampton in the 2000 final and Leicester in 2002. They used them intelligently and built a squad that went on to win it in 2006 and 2008.

Like most businesses that find themselves in trouble, the first thing they do is look for help from people outside their organisation to find out what is going wrong. They employ consultants and accountants, who have no idea what is happening at the grassroots.

All they do is look at the bottom figure and come up with cost-saving solutions that normally start with weakening the foundations the company is built on.

QUICK FIXES

Instead of fixing the processes that will allow them to achieve their goals, they look for a quick fix. When they are long gone and the company crumbles, they sit back in their office chairs, shed a crocodile tear, and move on.

More often than not, when results and performances are not going in the right direction in a sporting context, it is the coach that shoulders all the blame. Yet while Johann van Graan has done himself no favours, the question I ask is, what rocks are protecting all the people who hired him in the first place?

IRFU’s high-performance director, Australian David Nucifora, has a lot to answer for but is sheltered behind the success of the men’s national team. That's because 90% of the IRFU’s revenue is created through the actions of that group. 

Munster's trophyless run of the last 11 years doesn't matter in that regard.

There are some brilliant and very clever rugby people in our province waiting in the wings and unless they are propelled into positions of authority and the amateur side of the game invested in, do not expect to see the trophy cabinet in Thomond Park opening for a very long time.

Rory Scannell of Munster breaks through the Castres Olympique defence last weekend. Picture: Manuel Blondeu/Sportsfile
Rory Scannell of Munster breaks through the Castres Olympique defence last weekend. Picture: Manuel Blondeu/Sportsfile

Having already qualified for the last 16, Munster will be facing a Wasps side on Sunday who are also in the mix, after their very surprising win over defending champions, Toulouse. Currently eighth, come kick-off they could either be already through to the last 16 or they will be fighting for their lives and will be fielding their strongest team possible.

The Wasps team that will run out on Sunday will be completely different from the one that Munster beat in mid-December, and it will be very interesting to see how van Graan will look to play this one.

There were tiny little signs that the Munster players were looking to play a more expansive game last week and all we can do is hope that this conviction continues on Sunday.

A win will represent a small step forward, but a loss will send them back to the drawing board yet again.

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