Analysis: The new generation who can drive Munster's progress

The province should put their trust in this exciting group of young players.

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IT’S A NOISE that is instantly familiar, whether at Thomond Park or in Muzzer when Munster bring games to Cork. That rising hubbub of the home crowd, the medley of curiosity, appreciation, and excitement all at once. That audible thrill when one of their own takes the first few impressive steps of their career.

There’s always lots of chat about Munster’s ‘identity’ but it can be a hard thing to define. One part of it is surely this pride in homegrown players. Sure, actually lifting the Heineken Cup trophies in 2006 and 2008 mattered most but lots of the joy of that journey for so many Munster folk was that it was driven by a crop of players produced in the province. ROG, Paulie, Axel, Stringer, Hayes, Fla – the list goes on. Great rugby players, of course, but also Munster men through and through. The Red Army were embodied on the pitch by those totemic figures. 

Imports from outside Munster have always been important too. Langford, Halstead, Payne, Mafi, Tipoki, Howlett. Additions from abroad and the rest of the country will continue to be crucial for Munster, but there’s no doubt that the province’s fans love having homegrown heroes.

A new crop of youngsters is emerging in Munster now who have the potential to be of that ilk. If they’re trusted to advance into prominent roles, they can be drivers in the province’s progress.

The most thrilling moment for many of those at Musgrave Park last Saturday was the sight of 18-year-old back row Ruadhan Quinn surging down the left-hand side with two dynamic carries in the space of 20 seconds.

Quinn, who only got his Leaving Cert results last month, got just seven minutes off the bench but his cameo was a bright light on an evening when Munster stuttered with their collective performance again. There was plenty of post-match discussion about basic errors, but Munster fans could also spill out past the Dolphin and Sundays Well clubhouses giving each other knowing nods about the latest back row sensation rising through their ranks.

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Quinn isn’t the only teenager to debut for Munster so far this season, with 19-year-old lock Edwin Edogbo having come off the bench in their last two games. He too has had highlight moments like two jackal turnover penalty wins against Zebre.

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According to those who have seen them up close in training and not just in these cameos, Quinn and Edogbo are elite prospects in the pack. Quinn is 6ft 3ins and already more than 110kg, while Edogbo is a very big man at 6ft 6ins and must be close to 120kg. Both are explosive and have good instincts. There is rawness there, but that can be a good thing at times. Sometimes these gems can be overpolished.

Last weekend saw 20-year-old Patrick Campbell get his third start for Munster, having enjoyed a try-scoring debut in that memorable Wasps game last season. Things didn’t quite open up for the former minor All-Ireland football champion but we saw plenty of intent and energy in his attempts to get involved off his wing.

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