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'The IRFU has to take a top-down approach and look at how the game is managed'

David Wallace speaks to The42 about how the IRFU needs to plan for the future and a new start for Munster.

David Wallace won 72 caps for Ireland.
David Wallace won 72 caps for Ireland.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Wallace believes that the IRFU needs to see the bigger picture and fully utilise the resources they have to remain competitive at the top of world rugby.

The financial gap between the Tier One nations in the northern hemisphere has widened in recent years and it looks like a trend that is set to continue after it was announced that Canal+ will pay €97 million per season to screen France’s Top 14 matches from the 2019/20 season on a four-year deal. That figure is over 10 times more than the broadcasters pay to show the Pro12.

“The IRFU has to take a top-down approach and look at how the game is managed. They need to set the net as wide as possible and ensure players are ready to join the senior setup,” Wallace said.

“They don’t have the money of the other associations but they have to be smarter. They need to work with all of the Division 1A and Division 1B clubs to ensure they have academies that can narrow the gap between the amateurs and professionals.”

The former Munster flanker has also called on the organisation to work more with the school sides to ensure that they are producing technically and tactically better players, not just teams with the sole purpose of winning matches.

“They have to work on getting the transition as smooth as possible. Even at school level, there is too much politics at play. They need to get more involved with the schools and get them coached up. The school teams are playing just to win the cup and not necessarily build players for the future.”

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Wallace is hopeful though that Munster will not have to wait too long for the good times to return to Thomond Park and cites Munster’s new single training centre at the University of Limerick and the appointment of Rassie Erasmus as the new Director of Rugby as reasons for optimism.

“To have everything and everybody working together on a regular basis under the one roof will be a massive bonus – not having the facility has hurt the province in the past.

“Erasmus seems a good fit. He will have the team very organised, he has good experience and will bring in some good coaches. It’s exciting to see what happens. He will be very hands-on and will have a clear idea of what he wants.”

Anthony Foley will remain as part of the Munster coaching staff and Wallace is convinced that the lessons he has learned over the last couple of seasons will help him to become an even better coach in the future.

“It’s a challenging situation for him. Munster is in his heart and he wants nothing more than to coach Munster. There will be challenges ahead but it will work. He will be a good coach.”

Wallace admits that it has been a tough season for his former team-mate in the Munster hot seat, but feels the side can bounce back next season after overcoming several obstacles this season.

“There has been a high turnover of players and young guys take time to develop, especially in Europe. It’s a big step up. The players would have been disappointed not to make the play-offs but it was bit of a relief to finish in the European places.

“No European place would have been a disaster but they weathered the storm with two massive wins and they can now regroup for next season.”

The other Irish provinces have fared much better with Leinster, Ulster and Connacht all competing in the Pro12 semi-finals this weekend but Wallace concedes that the Irish sides need to perform better on the European stage.

“The Irish sides overall have done fantastic in the Pro12 — to have two home semi-finals and four teams in the top six is a good achievement — but Irish sides judge themselves on how they perform in Europe.”

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