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How do Alan Quinlan and Paul Wallace rate Munster ahead of the new season?

The Sky Sports analysts discuss Anthony Foley, Robin Copeland, Ian Keatley and much more.

Quinlan believes new signing Robin Copeland has much to bring to the side.
Quinlan believes new signing Robin Copeland has much to bring to the side.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ALAN QUINLAN HAS expressed enthusiasm for the new-look Munster set-up ahead of the coming season, emphasising the qualities that recently installed coach Anthony Foley will bring to the set-up.

The Sky Sports analyst, for instance, believes there are some key differences between Foley and his predecessor as coach, Rob Penney.

“Axel is a very pro-active coach. He would have been part of some of the stuff that Rob Penney was trying to do.

“Rugby’s a physical game, you need to have some go-forward and you need to be direct at times. It was just that balance. When you’re going over and back and you’re not engaging the gain-line it can look passive, it can be easy to defend and they just didn’t execute it as well.

“At times they looked brilliant when they did the wide-wide game, so Axel’s not going to completely go away from that. You can’t just be one-dimensional and go back and say ‘we’ll put the ball up the jumpers’. They’re going to have to be expansive as well and move it. It’s just identifying those areas and really working on that.

“I don’t think you’ll see a team going over and back 20 yards behind the gain-line, which Rob Penney didn’t want to happen either. There’s no coach in the world who’d want that. It was just executed poorly.”

Meanwhile, Quinlan has high hopes for new signing Robin Copeland, who joined recently from Cardiff on a two-year deal.

“He brings a lot of physicality,” Quinlan says. “He’s a really, really good ball-carrier. He’s big, he’s quick, he’s got really good feet and performed extremely well with not the strongest Cardiff side, in Europe as well.

“He’s a big addition. They need ball carriers. I think they haven’t had enough of ball carriers in the pack in the last couple of years. I think they can mix it with most packs  throughout Europe. Sometimes, going back to the gameplan, they just haven’t had people giving them that forward momentum.”

However, notwithstanding Copeland’s introduction to the set-up, Quinlan suggests there are other forwards who need to take greater responsibility this year.

“Look at Leinster with Healy, Sean Cronin, Heaslip, O’Brien: phenomenal carriers who just continually get over the gain-line. Obviously you do the hard yards first – I’m not saying they’re bad ball carriers, but James Cronin or Kilcoyne, whoever starts at 1: they need to step up, make the hard yards. Botha needs to carry better, Paulie does, O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and all these guys. I think Copeland is a natural carrier and they needed that.

“They’ve a very good pack Munster and they’ve got to get that go-forward, make those hard yards up front. They have good options in the back row.”

Quin Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Meanwhile, Quinlan’s fellow Sky Sports analyst Paul Wallace also believes Foley has much to offer as coach, indicating the team’s style will be considerably different to the gameplan they tried to implement under Penney.

“Axel is pragmatic and it will be a pragmatic gameplan,” he says. “He’ll see a few weaknesses in Munster; trying to run ball from their own half when they’ve got very poor wide passing skills throughout the side — that’s trying to play a game that didn’t suit them.

“That said, they’ve got lots of strengths; lineout, maul, good kicking game. I think they’ll play more territory that’s for sure.

“Just as Munster did in the good old days, once they get inside the 10-metre line and get front football then they’ll start doing it. It’ll be a little bit more direct. Instead of trying to pass around a team — Leinster might be better in that area — they’ll have a little bit more grunt through momentum and once they’ve broken up a defence like Quinny and the lads used to. They’ll have that platform and territory becomes more important than width.”

And with that in mind, does he see Ian Keatley being able to dictate the game and play that territory the way Ronan O’Gara did so often in the past?

“[Munster] probably ended up being a bad move for him [at the time]; he was playing some brilliant rugby, a great game manager at Connacht. He just didn’t get enough game-time for a number of years.

“We talk about the likes of Hanrahan coming through or Madigan, you need time there. Humphreys, O’Gara or whoever, they all took time. They all mad game management errors, Sexton the same. I think as Keatley’s season went on last year his game management improved.

“You’ve got JJ Hanrahan coming though, a big running threat, but defensively isn’t up to where Keatley is at and the game management probably isn’t there yet.”

‘Sky Sports will broadcast more live rugby than ever before this year with over 360 matches, including a great Autumn of Irish rugby with Guinness Pro12, European Rugby Champions Cup and Ireland’s Guinness Autumn Internationals.’

Ulster in turmoil? Couldn’t be further from the truth, says Robbie Diack>

Heal Munster furore by giving criticised players chance to shine — Quinlan>

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