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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Strong form the best way for Munster to put report furore to bed

Anthony Foley will be keen for an emphatic win over Edinburgh on Friday to quash doubts over squad morale.

Foley took over as Munster head coach when Rob Penney left this summer.
Foley took over as Munster head coach when Rob Penney left this summer.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

ANTHONY FOLEY AND Munster are preparing for their opening Pro12 fixture of the season with the unwelcome distraction caused by a management report being accidentally distributed to the squad’s players.

The southern province face Edinburgh on Friday night at Thomond Park, but an unfortunate error last week gave Foley’s new management team an unexpected early test.

As outlined by the Sunday Independent yesterday, the documents were leaked to the entire squad in error. Munster’s players receive their weekly schedules and management feedback by email, and would have been surprised to see the additional attachments last week, an occurrence owing to human error.

TheScore.ie has viewed a number of the documents accidentally circulated, including in-depth comments on players, a chart suggesting which players are viewed as first, second and third-choice in each position, as well as another focused on contracts.

While some of the comments are critical – one player is suggested as having a “sloppy lifestyle,” and other players’ ambition or skill levels are questioned – there is also much positive analysis of the individuals within the Munster squad.

Large portions of the content in the report were likely to have been known to the players prior to the accidental leak through one-on-one feedback sessions, although some individuals may have been disgruntled with specific comments.

Munster management team Munster's new coaching team of Jerry Flannery, Brian Walsh, Foley, Mick O'Driscoll and Ian Costello. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Indeed, Munster say that the information distributed to the squad was content that would usually go directly to individuals. Their main issue was that the entire squad had viewed information relating to other players.

“An email went out due to individual error; it went to a group listing as opposed to individual players,” a spokesperson for Munster told TheScore.ie.

“It’s never ideal with a human error. There’s always an element of mistakes made in sport and that was a mistake. Squad, players, management, everybody met and spoke about it on the Thursday and focus switched back quickly to the rugby and getting ready for that.”

Munster did respond well to the incident by beating London Irish 17-5 in a pre-season friendly on Friday night in Waterford, two days after the information was mistakenly distributed.

Rugby players are a resilient breed, and Munster’s squad are more than accustomed to dealing with frank individual assessment. Many of the players have strong existing personal relationships with members of the coaching staff, and a potential professional setback such as this should be eminently manageable.

Furthermore, pecking order within the squad is sure to be something that the players themselves were aware of already.

General view as the Munster team take the field Munster return to Thomond Park on Friday night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Anthony Foley is almost certain to be quizzed on the subject at a press event in Thomond Park tomorrow afternoon, but the matter has already been dealt with internally by Munster, who say they have moved on.

It would be a shock for Foley to reveal any further behind-the-scenes details tomorrow, but this unfortunate incident may tinge outside analysis of Munster’s performances as the season begins. A united front is certain to be presented to media and supporters, but what happens if Munster take time to find their form on the pitch?

The best way for the province to put the matter to bed would be an emphatic win over Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh on Friday evening.

A defeat would likely prompt speculation over whether or not the players lost focus on their performance this week, certainly another unwelcome possibility for Foley and his all-Irish coaching staff in their first season at the helm.

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Murray Kinsella

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