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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Larkham is Munster's senior coach.
# Tactics
'We've been criticised for kicking too much, but the stats just don't add up'
Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham is happy with the province’s variety in attack.

MUNSTER SENIOR COACH Stephen Larkham has defended the province’s style of play following more criticism of their approach.

Larkham has a big influence on Munster’s attack along with head coach Johann van Graan. Former Wallabies out-half Larkham believes the province have balance in their tactics and that some comments about the province are “misinformed.”

Criticism of Munster was strong in the wake of their poor performance in defeat to against Connacht on New Year’s Day, but they have beaten Ulster and Castres over the past two weekends and shown more variety in their game plan.

Many people have focused on Munster’s reliance on putting pressure on opposition teams through their kicking game but this is one area in which Larkham feels the commentary is unfair.

“You’ve got to be realistic when you look at our game,” said Larkham this afternoon. “We are not the team that kicks the most in our games. I know we’ve been criticised for kicking too much in the past, but the stats just don’t add up.

“We feel that we’ve got a very balanced game and a game that we want to play. We feel that when there is an opportunity on the table, that we take that opportunity. I think we’ve got a sound game and we’re improving.

“We’re looking to improve every week and some weeks the game doesn’t come together because of the conditions of the referee or different circumstances. We certainly have enough variety in our game.”

Official stats from this season’s United Rugby Championship show that only the Ospreys and Dragons have kicked more on average per game than Munster.

Last season, only the Ospreys and Scarlets kicked more on average per game than Munster, while there were four teams with higher average figures in the 2019/20 season.

In this season’s disrupted Champions Cup, Leicester, Bordeaux, and Connacht have all kicked more on average per game than Munster. 

Last season, 16 teams kicked more on average per game than Munster in the European competition. The season before, only two teams kicked more frequently on average.

Regardless, Larkham said Munster are pleased with the balance of their tactical approach out on the pitch as they look to make it four wins from four in the Champions Cup pool stages by beating Wasps at Thomond Park this weekend.

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“There are parts of those games we’re happy with,” says Larkham of Munster’s recent form.

“If you look at our previous four games, some passages haven’t been great. We put our hands up and said we need to be better. In others, the referees have made some questionable decisions that have made it very difficult to get a roll on.

“And then recently we’ve had a couple of really good passages in a couple of really good performances. Maybe the score didn’t reflect how well we’ve played in the last couple of games.”

Some of those good passages came against Castres last weekend, including two bursts of attacking variety early in the second half to win penalties that Jack Crowley kicked, as well as a clever cross-field kick by Rory Scannell from a Munster scrum on their own 22 that could have resulted in a first-half try.

“That’s been in our game,” said Larkham. “I guess this is the thing that people probably need to understand – we’ve used that play before. We’ve used all of these sort of options before.

“It’s encouraging that it came off, it has come off before for us. Like I said, we’ve got good variation in our game and it’s just a matter of pulling the trigger at times when it’s on.”

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