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Munster won't look for centre cover despite losing Chris Farrell

Graham Rowntree also confirmed that RG Snyman is ‘not quite ready yet.’

Farrell will be absent for an undefined period.
Farrell will be absent for an undefined period.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

MUNSTER AREN’T LOOKING to bring in centre cover despite unexpectedly losing Chris Farrell for an unspecified period as he steps away from team duties.

Farrell, a key frontline player for Munster in recent seasons, has stood down while legal proceedings are ongoing in France around a case of alleged rape in which the 29-year-old Ireland international is an alleged witness.

Munster are also without centre Antoine Frisch at present due to his involvement in the Emerging Ireland tour of South Africa, but head coach Graham Rowntree confirmed that they won’t be going to the market at this stage.

“Currently our squad depth is good in that area,” said Rowntree.

Dan Goggin and new signing Malakai Fekitoa started against the Dragons last weekend, while Rory Scannell is returning to team training this week after being sidelined with a facial injury. Liam Coombes can also play at outside centre as well as the wing.

With nine players currently on the Emerging Ireland tour, Munster’s options are reduced at present, with a hamstring injury to Keith Earls adding to the challenge in the back three.

Gavin Coombes, Jack Daly, and Andrew Conway remain on the injury list, while Rowntree also confirmed that there is still no definitive return date for Springboks lock RG Snyman from his ACL re-rupture last year.

“He’s not quite there yet,” said Rowntree. “He’s had a very difficult year and we’re not pushing him.

“All I can say at this point, for the foreseeable, he’s not quite ready yet.”

Regardless of those missing, Munster have more than enough quality in their squad to notch up their first win of the season at the third time of asking against Zebre in Cork on Saturday.

graham-rowntree Graham Rowntree at Munster training yesterday. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

While the Italians have played some very sharp attacking rugby against Leinster and the Sharks in the past fortnight, Munster should be able to steady themselves following their defeats to Cardiff and the Dragons.

The performances in those two trips to Wales have left some Munster fans concerned about the season ahead, and Rowntree is honest about what his side have delivered so far.

“The word I’ve used is I’m not trying to ‘sugarcoat’ anything,” said Rowntree. “If there’s a bad game and mistakes and discipline, it has to be better. I put my hand up as head coach but we’re working on it.”

It has been a difficult start for Rowntree in his first head coach role but he insisted that he’s calm about the initial setbacks even if this is all new to him.

“Well, I could have done without it, to be honest with you,” said Rowntree. “I would have preferred better results but no, you deal with what’s in front of you.

“I have been around long enough to understand how to speak to people, control my emotions at the right time. But a different experience, a different experience.”

Rowntree stressed that he retains absolute faith in his players’ ability to produce better performances and deliver positive results. He doesn’t believe that they have come into this season undercook.

“They are certainly not undercooked,” he said. “I have never seen us as fit. It’s skills under pressure, things just didn’t work out for us, and it’s a lot of stuff that we can control.

“Trying to force things, that’s just not us. Ill discipline, we’ve not had such a high penalty count for a long time. That’s on us, that’s our controllable.

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“We have had a good, stern, honest review. We move forward. What else can you do? You work on what you can do and you look forward to the next game.”

niall-scannell-with-jeremy-loughman Niall Scannell and Jeremy Loughman at Munster's session yesterday. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Cutting out the basic catching and passing errors that have been prevalent in the opening two games would go a long way to helping Munster improve.

Rowntree feels those mistakes are coming from players overthinking things out on the pitch.

“I can’t say to a guy ‘stop dropping the ball’, but I can say to a guy ‘we don’t practice that kind of pass, you’re trying to force things, stick to the plan’.

“They’re the ones that frustrated me, where we didn’t stick to the plan and were trying to be too fancy. Trying to make overhead, long, bridge passes where little handling passages would do.”

He’s sure their breakdown woes can be cleared up too. Rowntree doesn’t think Munster’s players are struggling there due to changing habits under the new coaching team. 

“It’s still a breakdown. There are still tacklers in a breakdown, there’s still a duty as a ball carrier about your entry into that breakdown and what you do with the ball, and guys still need removing. But there is a reaction speed that needs working on. As we play more rugby, I’m hoping that reaction speed improves.”

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