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Dublin: 0°C Friday 23 April 2021

'They had something unbelievably unique in Limerick rugby and I don't think it's too late to reignite that'

Munster must learn from Limerick GAA and get the talent conveyor belt turning again in the Treaty County, says Bernard Jackman.

Craig Casey celebrates a try.
Craig Casey celebrates a try.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IN A BREAK from ‘the new normal’ (eugh) of nostalgia, watch-backs and retrospective analysis, The42 Rugby Weekly went back to the old normal on Thursday where among the topics discussed were several high-profile interprovincial moves as well as an Asian marketing firm’s multi-million-pound takeover of the Ospreys.

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella joined Gavan Casey to run the rule over actual, current news, top of the agenda being recent developments which have understandably drawn the ire of Leinster supporters as two of their up-and-coming tighthead props — Roman Salanoa and John Aungier — are set to join Munster and Connacht respectively.

As part of that particular discussion, Bernard and Murray delved into the challenges facing the southern, western and northern provinces in their attempts to keep pace with Leinster’s unrivalled academy, and why Leinster are within their rights to be frustrated by the aforementioned moves as well as their three rivals’ increasingly regular raids of the four-time European champions’ production line.

After Murray pointed towards New Zealand’s franchise model, wherein players swap clubs with minimal fuss, as a cautionary tale, Bernard pinpointed Limerick as a catchment area which requires serious work on Munster’s behalf if they wish to become more self-sufficient; there is only one player from the Treaty County in Munster’s academy and just seven in Johann van Graan’s first-team squad.

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“I’ve no interest or agenda to Munster-bash, here, but I just see something, say something,” Jackman began.

Like, I think it’s absolutely brilliant that they’ve opened new frontiers and are starting to develop players from non-traditional areas — West Cork, Waterford. And obviously Cork is still strong with the schools there. But they had something unbelievably unique in Limerick rugby — and I don’t think it’s too late to reignite that fire and start to harness that again. Because I think it’s absolutely key for them.

“Thomond Park is in Limerick, you know? And if you don’t have the connection with the city there, from a rugby point of view, it’s not going to be the same because Munster was always built on that connection with their fans — but also from a financial point of view which is really important to keep the wheel turning.

“Crowds will drop, et cetera, and it won’t be as hard a place to go to try and win — I think it’ll affect the team’s performances.

For sure, Limerick hurling is in a far better place than it was when rugby was dominating the landscape there, but how did they turn it around? How have they got back? They weren’t going, ‘Aw, lookit, we’re dead here — there’s no comeback; rugby’s on top, rugby’s booming, every kid wants to have a rugby ball in their hand rather than a sliotar.’ I mean, they obviously put together some sort of plan — and I don’t have the exact details but I do know they invested in some brilliant coaches who had a huge influence on players’ desire to play hurling and they had to work hard to turn that around. It’s going to take that.

“And if there aren’t fee-paying schools in Limerick then I think the Munster Branch and the IRFU have to find ways of getting back in there and starting the process again. You mightn’t get results straight away — and maybe the process has started again already — but to only have one Limerick player in the academy shows that things have slipped.

And I think, in fairness, people in Munster have admitted it is difficult at the moment, but you’ve got to address it. You can’t lose that. I mean, that’s built upon 100 years of rugby being a huge part of the city and the culture of Limerick people. It’s absolutely imperative that they go back after that again and reignite it as I said, by hook or by crook, whatever funds are needed. And I also think it’s not a massive amount of money. I think you could have four or five very good coaches actively in there [at clubs and schools], day to day, for the price of a high-profile player. And that’s a cut I think they need to look at if they can’t find the money elsewhere.

In a break from ‘the new normal’, Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to discuss the latest rugby news, with a focus on several high-profile interprovincial player moves

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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