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‘Be patient and stop comparing us to the old Munster’

Keith Earls is convinced Munster are on the right track.

Earls hit back at Munster's critics.
Earls hit back at Munster's critics.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

KEITH EARLS HAS launched a strong response to Munster’s critics, passionately arguing the team are on the right course under Johann van Graan.

Three successive defeats to Leinster, Ulster and Racing 92 have increased the focus on van Graan and his side, comparisons inevitably being made with the club’s 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup winning sides. Earls, however, is anxious his team step away from the shadow of their past.

“Over the Christmas period, we probably did embarrass ourselves up in Ulster with our performance,” the winger said. “Losing at home to Leinster was equally very disappointing – but we handled the Racing game a bit better, at least for 71 minutes. Had one or two decisions gone our way then it could have been a different story.

We are just not used to losing three in a row. People just need to stop comparing us to the old Munster as well.”

 

munster-celebrate-winning-the-heineken-european-cup Munster lift the 2008 Heineken Cup. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Earls also addressed the issue of the World Cup interrupting their momentum this season, suggesting the absence of 12 key players in Japan prevented the province’s incoming coaches, Steve Larkham and Graham Rowntree, from implementing their philosophy.

“People actually don’t realise that Johann and his coaching staff have had five games this season where they had the choice of all of the players to pick their first-choice team. Five games is still a short time to prepare for the likes of Saracens and Racing but hopefully we can put in a good performance (against Ospreys in their final Champions Cup pool game this Sunday)  and keep building. We have been in worse case scenarios than this.

“Qualification is out of our hands but everyone needs patience because it takes some teams a full season to bed in a new philosophy and that is not an excuse but that is the reality of it, that people are very impatient.”

Patience has been made doubly difficult by the success of their neighbour, though – Leinster winning seven major trophies since silverware last visited Thomond Park in 2011.

“That probably is the case but why is that? You have to make the point that they have a bigger pool to look at as well in terms of players. It is no excuse but we definitely should be up there with them. We have the talent to do that but unfortunately it is not coming through at the moment. Hopefully it does.”

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If Leinster’s shadow wasn’t problematic enough, the constant reminder of what the previous generation did in the noughties is everywhere, from newspaper columns to social media posts.

Last Friday, in his Irish Examiner column, Ronan O’Gara wrote that ‘some people who don’t know the club and the ethos have put average players in positions of prominence and power’. 

Earls, however, is tired of comparisons with the club’s golden era.“The game has evolved since then; rugby is completely different to what it was,” he said. “It moves every year, the attack quality, the defence quality shifts every year. We have a young enough group, some new lads coming in; a new coaching staff too.

“I know people reference that (their two-time European Cup winning team), but how many heartaches did they have before they won one? They were in two finals and three semi-finals before they actually won it in 2006. No one had done it before them, so the expectation was seen to get into a semi-final and a final. But now it is completely different for us.”

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