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'You have to worry about the quality of some of the players Munster have'

Bernard Jackman voiced his concerns on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra podcast.

Munster were second best against the Dragons.
Munster were second best against the Dragons.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

YESTERDAY WAS A chastening experience for Munster and their new coaching team as the southern province lost to the Dragons for the first time in seven years.

It means new boss Graham Rowntree has tasted defeat in both of his games in charge so far, with yesterday’s 23-17 loss following a disappointing trip to Cardiff in the first round of the URC.

Speaking on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra - a podcast available to members of The42 every Monday and Wednesday - former Ireland and Leinster hooker Bernard Jackman expressed his concerns over the latest performance and the quality of Munster’s squad.

“I think it’s going to have to get worse before it gets better,” said Jackman. “I’m not saying it has to get worse than yesterday because yesterday was very bad but the quick fix of a new coaching team, a new way of training, isn’t going to work overnight.

“Hopefully it’s a bit like Joe Schmidt when he started in Leinster where they had a couple of defeats against Italian opposition, there was a lot of fear, and then next thing it just settled down. The main thing about Joe Schmidt was that the players at the time never blinked. They believed in what he was doing and could see it would work. Once it clicked, it was incredibly impressive.

“I would wonder if Munster will be able to do what Joe Schmidt did because you have to worry about the quality of some of the players they have. Donncha O’Callaghan after the game on RTÉ spoke about that middle group. I do worry about them.

“It sounds harsh but I think there have been a lot of players who have had a very comfortable career in Munster without significantly moving the province forward or even keeping them at the levels their predecessors had them at. I think that was exposed yesterday.

“I do forgive the internationals… but then you saw the Leinster internationals come back and bang, (play well) against Treviso. But I do think it’s hard to come in for your first game. Peter O’Mahony had some key moments in the game but in general it was just incredibly poor.

joey-carbery-dejected Munster have lost their two opening games of the URC season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“I’m on Against the Head tonight and I had another look at the game and I’m trying to work out what’s the priority to look at. Set-piece? Beaten up at set-piece. Physicality? Beaten up physically which is very rare against a Welsh region and particularly the Dragons. Breakdown in attack? Pretty much non-existent. Defensive breakdown? So sloppy and so ill-disciplined. Catch-pass? Very poor. Attacking shape and understanding of how to get around a blitz defence? Very poor. Work-rate? Quite poor.

“It’s so many areas. I don’t think there’s one area where Munster will go away from that game thinking, ‘We dominated there, that’s now something we know we’re good at.’ I know the Dragons had more emotion and it was a better performance but their confidence was rock-bottom.

“We saw before half-time how feeble they are when the other team gets momentum. They gave up two scores to Munster but Munster didn’t score at all in the second half. If they had gone out in the first 10 minutes of the second half and laid down a bit of a marker, that game would have been won. Even in the 71st minute before the Rio Dyer try, Munster were winning the game.

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“The sequence of play that led to the kick Joey Carbery kicked under pressure that allowed Rio Dyer to run back against an unorganised defence, it’s just so sloppy. It’s so sloppy. I think they’re definitely in a middle stage where they’re not sure whether to run or kick. Even that example came from trying to run outside their own 22 when they didn’t have the shape to do it and the inaccuracy of pass.

“I’m not panicking at all, I know I sound really negative here. I do think they’ll get better and the new coaching team haven’t had long but I have to say that some of the basic skills we saw from some of the players, you’d have to wonder. Forward passing, dropped passes under no pressure, that stuff is going to worry them.

“We know they haven’t had a skills coach for four or five years, training has been very slow, etc. and they’re trying to change that, but for me watching them so far this season, I wonder how far behind some of their players are. That’s my frank opinion.”

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie. 

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