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'We’ve got a good academy and I’m looking at putting these guys through as quickly as possible'

Munster boss Graham Rowntree was impressed by debutants Pa Campbell, Conor Phillips and Ruadhán Quinn against Zebre.

Patrick Campbell, 20, on the burst for Munster.
Patrick Campbell, 20, on the burst for Munster.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

GRAHAM ROWNTREE FEELS he got the reaction he demanded of his Munster side in their 21-5 win over Zebre at Musgrave Park, but that he “just didn’t get it consistently”.

The southern province got off the mark, and climbed out of the bowels of the URC table, with a performance which left the Cork crowd frustrated. They scored three first-half tries — two from the rolling maul — but got in their own way with sloppy errors in the second half, denying themselves a four-try bonus point.

Indeed, they failed to score at all after the interval for the second week running, and they have scored just seven second-half points across their three URC fixtures so far this season.

Rowntree agreed that a bonus-point win looked almost a certainty at half-time, but “then we go and lose two of our own lineouts through our own inaccuracy when we’d got them camped in their 22′. We need to look at that as well.

“There’s a lot of things in our game, we’re pushing a lot of new things in our game and there’s a lot of difference in the way we’re training so we’ve just got to keep driving that, driving the standards.

“We just couldn’t keep hold of the ball for a significant length of time. We played in the right areas of the field so we have to be better.

“It’s undeniable what we need to do better. The lads know it. It’s ball retention, looking after the ball, cherishing the ball.”

Still, Rowntree and his coaching staff are off the mark, at least, and victory will hopefully close the book on back-to-back defeats in Wales to start his first campaign in charge.

The pleasing aspects to Munster’s performance, he said, were “control, particularly first half; set-piece, around our maul, some of the things we’ve been doing in training are coming off.

“Actually, second half we did some good things”, added the Englishman, “but it was just littered with our own errors in terms of ball retention.”

conor-phillips-during-the-game Conor Phillips made his first competitive start for the southern province. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

An additional positive were first competitive starts for Patrick Campbell and Conor Phillips on the left and right wings respectively while Ruadhán Quinn, who won a Munster Schools Senior Cup with Crescent in March and sat his Leaving Cert in June, converted a positive pre-season into a dynamic cameo off the bench.

Campbell, who along with Alex Kendellen was on the Pres team that reached the 2020 Munster schools final, showed flashes of the excitement he generated in Ireland U20 colours this year. Phillips, the 23-year-old Young Munster man who also previously represented Ireland at U20 level, provided the kind of kick chase and aerial threat from his wing that Munster have often lacked in recent seasons.

Teenager Quinn, meanwhile, became the youngest player to represent Munster in a competitive game during the professional era and made the very most of his few minutes with a couple of explosive carries down the left-hand side.

“It’s excellent, just excellent for their development,” Rowntree said of his youngsters. “The senior guys in this club are very good at pulling those guys along, not singling them out in training but pulling them with them.

He’s electric, Patrick Campbell, the same with Philsy. I was delighted with Ruadhán again: came off the bench, made a debut and made a dent with some good carries up the edge there. He’s a real prospect for the future, especially as he’s only 10 years old. He’s exciting.

“That’s one thing that’s coming through very quickly and I’m looking to force it through, is the youth. We’ve got a good academy and I’m looking at putting these guys through as quickly as is possible.”

Munster head for Galway this Friday night to face a Connacht side who have been a match for them in recent seasons, and will be ravenous for their own first victory of the new campaign.

“We lost there on New Year’s Day this year and they played really well that day,” Rowntree said. “They forced us into making a lot of errors.

“So it was always going to be tough but now [with] their record going into this game and their new pitch and all that wrapped up, it’s going to be an even tougher ask for us.”

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