“It was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Niall Ronan has explained that joining Munster after not being offered another contract with Leinster was the best decision he ever made.
The four cap Ireland international had found game time hard to come by at Leinster, his native province, as was behind the likes of Shane Jennings in the pecking order at flanker.
While Munster were a better side than Leinster at the time of his move in 2007, having won the Heineken Cup the previous year, Ronan was given far more opportunities to impress than he was with the eastern province.
Ronan was speaking to Pundit Arena about his major career decision to swap Leinster for Munster, which ultimately led to the flanker winning international caps for Ireland.
“For me, it was the best decision I ever made in my life. Not just in terms of rugby, but in terms of the experiences I had and the friends I made,” Ronan explained.
“At Leinster, my contract was up and there wasn’t another one for me. I was going to either retire, which I thought about, or go to another club.
“When Munster came calling it was the best club in the world at the time, in my opinion. To be part of that and to get a 12-month contract, which was an opportunity for me to stake my claim, was brilliant.”
‘Leaving Ireland could help Irish players develop.’
Ronan is now just one of a long list of players who left Leinster to play for Munster, with the likes of Joey Carbery and Andrew Conway having made the move in more recent years.
While switching province can work, Ronan also believes that leaving Ireland to play for a professional club overseas would help many players’ development.
However, the former Munster flanker conceded that the IRFU have reasons not to encourage Irish players to play their rugby abroad.
“For players who are on the fringe of the Leinster team, and they may be third or fourth choice, moving to another club is the right decision,” Ronan said.
? 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣8️⃣#GuinnessPRO14#LEIvMUN pic.twitter.com/2da8COedga
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) March 29, 2021
“I agree that going over to other countries would be brilliant in terms of different cultures, different styles of rugby. I think that would help Irish players.
“However, the IRFU can organise player welfare to their advantage if they stay in Ireland. Whereas if they go to another club – London Irish, Racing or whoever – they might not have that flexibility with a top player who’s going to become an international superstar.”
Ronan – ‘South African clubs will restore standards in the Pro14.’
The Meath man spent most of his career playing in the Pro14 (known as the Celtic League when Ronan started out) and won two league titles during his time with Munster.
When he started playing, the league consisted of teams from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but has since undergone several changes by adding sides from Italy and South Africa.
Four South African teams who recently competed in Super Rugby are joining the league in a one-off tournament called the Rainbow Cup this season, before taking part in the full competition next season.
Opening fixtures for Rainbow Cup confirmed ?? #GuinnessPRO14RainbowCup
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) March 26, 2021
Ronan reckons the addition of the South African teams is a necessary change, as he believes the standard of rugby in the league has decreased since he hung up his boots.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think the level has dropped a bit. When I was playing it was at a higher level, I believe,” Ronan said.
“So bringing those South African franchises in is going to be a very good thing, I think. It’ll create excitement. If I was playing myself, going to South Africa would be a great experience.
“If you’ve got big teams that’ll be competing against the likes of Leinster that can create a bit of competition within the league, because the same teams top the groups each year at the moment, it’ll be a positive thing.”
‘It’s okay to talk about it’
Ronan has taken part in a new campaign called ‘Talk E.D’ with broadcaster Hector Ó hEochagáin, which aims to encourage men to talk about intimate health issues in an open manner.
The former professional rugby player revealed that erectile dysfunction is a common occurrence amongst men in Ireland, and explained that exercise and a good diet can help to improve the problem.
“I’m delighted to be a part of it and given an opportunity to create awareness on it. One-third of men in Ireland have experienced difficulty in achieving an erection,” Ronan explained.
“It’s okay to talk about it and to get support from your pharmacist or your GP.”
The former Ireland international believes that high-profile sportsmen can help to improve awareness around intimate issues, as well as encouraging men to seek support.
“If you’re a superstar rugby or soccer player, to share your own experiences or to create awareness is very important. We live in an age now we’re able to talk about our mental health more, especially males,” Ronan said.
“I think we live in an age now where your teammates, as well as your friends… if you have an issue there should be a colleague or a friend that you can talk to about it. That can be the first step with erectile dysfunction.”
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