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Flannery looks to add 'steely edge' to Quins pack as they visit Thomond Park

The Premiership side have been impressed by some of the province’s young players.

Flannery left Munster in the summer of 2019.
Flannery left Munster in the summer of 2019.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

HARLEQUINS HAVE SOME useful insight into Munster ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup clash in Thomond Park thanks to lineout coach Jerry Flannery and scrum-half Jack Stafford.

Flannery left Munster back in the summer of 2019, while Stafford was in the province’s academy up until earlier this year, so they have knowledge of plenty that goes on within Johann van Graan’s set-up in Limerick.

Flannery opted against renewing his contract as forwards coach at Munster at the end of the 2018/19 season and spent a year out of the professional game before signing up with Quins ahead of the return of rugby in August.

“He has been great,” says the Premiership club’s scrum-half, Danny Care.

“He has given a bit of a steely edge, hopefully, to our forwards. It’s a work in progress, we’re not where we want to be yet but Jerry, with all that experience and knowledge, he is Munster through and through.

“We’ve got Jack Stafford as well, so he’s been trying to give us the lowdown on a few of their players. We know we’re going to have to play very well to match them on Sunday.”

Quins boss Paul Gustard underlines that while Flannery has got insider knowledge of Munster, the Irish province have been evolving under van Graan since he left, with Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree coming on board.

“It’s useful having someone who has got an inside track,” says Gustard. “We’ve got to use Jerry’s knowledge and insight but we’ve also got to be cognisant of the fact that a team develops, grows, and evolves.

“You’ve got to trust what your eyes tell you. Eddie Jones told me when I first started coaching in 2008 that ‘the best friend of a coach is your eyes.’

“As a general rule, we watch four or five games from the opposition so we feel we’ve got a good feel of what Munster are about. We’ve got guys who have played against Munster before and Ireland before. We feel fully prepared for the challenge ahead.”

gloucester-rugby-v-harlequins-gallagher-premiership-kingsholm-stadium Harlequins boss Paul Gustard. Source: PA

Much of the discussion around Munster in recent months has been about their emerging young players and the hints of a more ambitious attacking game featuring an increased number of offloads.

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The pressure of European rugby will tell us more about whether Munster have evolved but Quins have noted some differences.

“They look good,” says Care. “We’re aware of a lot of the players coming back from Irish duty – Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, these guys – but looking at their past few games, they seem to have blooded a few really good youngsters.

“Craig Casey, the young nine, loves to run with the ball and looks really sharp and loves to play with energy and tempo.

“We know the things we’re going to have to get right when you go away and play someone like Munster, the set-piece and their kicking game with Conor Murray one of the best in the business for putting the ball on the money.

“We’re going to have to defend incredibly well and take our chances. I haven’t played Munster in a long time, I haven’t played against Conor Murray in a while, so I’m looking forward to that.”

And Gustard points out that the major personnel difference in the Munster team this season is the presence of a World Cup winner in their midfield.

“We saw some significant signings, they obviously spent a lot of money on Snyman and de Allende. It’s unfortunate for RG that he hasn’t been able to play [due to his knee injury] but they have a plethora of riches in the second row.

“De Allende has been superb and we’ve seen young Ben Healy coming in at 10 with a slightly different style of play than JJ [Hanrahan].

“But look, what Munster do well, they do as well as anyone else in European rugby. We’ve got to be able to deal with that and we look forward to that challenge.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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