Anthony Foley’s side face a difficult task in the Aviva Stadium.
This season has been particularly difficult for Munster fans to handle. Poor performances have not only seen Anthony Foley’s side crash out of Europe at the pool stages for the second consecutive season, but dwindling attendances in Thomond Park.
Some supporters are also dismayed by the manner in which Munster seem to be going about restructuring their coaching set up, with question marks hanging over each facet of the province’s plan. Who will eventually become the new Director of Rugby? Given Munster’s results, why was Foley handed a contract extension? And what of the remaining members of the coaching staff?
Come the new season, Munster could find themselves in a position whereby they have employed a new Director of Rugby who will be tasked with returning the province to Europe’s top table, but who will have to do so with at least some members of Foley’s failed coaching group.
As a result, if the new DOR wants to overhaul the coaching set up, he will have to wait for another season to do so. Worse still, if the DOR does decide to make changes and demands that the contracts of Foley and the other surviving staff are not to be extended beyond next season, Munster will find themselves with a lame duck coaching group. How is such a management structure supposed to function?
The most annoying feature of the entire is mess is the fact that Munster have in their possession some very talented players. Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, Donnacha Ryan and Dave Kilcoyne are all international players. In addition, the likes of Rory Scannell, Francis Saili, James Cronin, Mike Sherry and Andrew Conway have demonstrated an ability to play at a higher level than they are doing so at the moment.
Yet Munster have struggled against the likes of the Cardiff Blues and the Dragons, and went on a run of five successive defeats this season. Both form and injuries have played their part, but so too has Munster’s completely outdated game plan. Foley’s side play without much ambition and are predictable in attack. In addition, Munster have leaked a massive total of 332 points in the Pro 12 this season.
Therefore I fear for Munster this weekend against a very strong Leinster side that will look to move Munster around the field. Gary Ringrose has already shown what he is capable of against Munster, and could form a potent partnership alongside Ben Te’o in midfield.
Although Ian Keatley’s form has given Foley little choice but to give Johnny Holland a start at outhalf, the Cork Con playmaker will lining out against the Johnny Sexton.
Upfront, Stephen Archer and Niall Scannell will be asked to stand firm in the scrum against the battle hardened Jack McGrath and Sean Cronin, while Dave O’Callaghan will have to be at his best if he is to match Rhys Rudduck.
If that’s not enough, Leo Cullen will be able to call on the likes of Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Josh van der Flier, Luke McGrath and Ian Madigan from the bench.
As a result, things could get really ugly for Munster tomorrow night.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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