"We're making all these comparisons to Jack Crowley and ROG, but he's more like Johnny Sexton"
"Can we just mention one thing, actually."
It took 24 minutes and 33 seconds on the final House of Rugby episode of the season to get properly stuck into what a find Munster have in Jack Crowley.
The 23-year-old had 13 appearances [five starts] last season but 2022/23 was the campaign that saw him snatch that famous red No.10 jersey and make it his own. Ben Healy is departing for Edinburgh, this summer, so it looks as though Crowley and Joey Carbery will be the main Munster out-halves for next season, with Tony Butler and Rory Scannell backing them up.
Crowley made 11 appearances in the first half of the season but only two were in the 10 jersey - for Munster against Ulster and for Ireland against Australia. Graham Rowntree gave him another start in his preferred role on New Years' Day, away to Ulster, but took until early April to settle on him as the outhalf to led his team forward.
The anomaly was the URC semi-final win over Leinster, which saw him start inside centre, but he moved back to 10 after Healy left the game injured in the 31st minute. He retained the 10 jersey for the final victory over Stormers, in Cape Town, and delivered his best Munster performance yet.
On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 24:00 below], the panel raved about the maturity and bravery of his final performance while likening him to an Irish rugby legend.
Jack Crowley compared to Johnny Sexton
"How bloody good was Jack Crowley in that final?" asked Jason Hennessy. "Nerves of steel, throughout that game.
"This kid is... we knew he was special but to step into a game of that magnitude - 23 years of age, 55,000 people, URC final against the holders - and he was just as cool as you like for that whole match."
"He was so cool, calm and collected," observed former Leinster star Lindsay Peat, "and that just reverberated around the whole team. He was key to that win because when you have someone so assured in the 10 position, it just calms you. I know, as a prop, you can just go about your job, knowing the direction is going to come from your 10. And he did that so exceptionally well."
Without wanting to take away from the decent 10s that have had good cracks at the main Munster role over the past decade - such as Carbery, Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan and Tyler Bleyendaal - the emergence of Crowley does harken back to the days of Ronan O'Gara. A real leader at 10 and someone that not only rewards the efforts of his pack but gives them set-pieces to get stuck into and ignites the backline.
One of the stand-out aspects of that United Rugby Championship final was the high line Crowley played and the timing of his passes. He rarely seemed hurried, despite the Stormers press.
"We're making all these comparisons to him and ROG," said Hennessy, "but, for me, he's more like Johnny Sexton.
"He's very much like Sexton as he brings that physicality as well. He's a big lad. And people do forget, Johnny takes the ball hard to the line, every time, and he is well able to tackle. And he's got that cool, calm head where everyone looks to him to dictate things and, to me, that is what Jack is like."
When host Greg O'Shea did the rounds and asked who should be backing up Sexton during the World Cup, it was Crowley that won the vote, ahead of Ross Byrne, 3-0.
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
- "We did it the hard way" - Munster stun Stormers to claim United Rugby Championship title
- Andy Farrell makes some bold calls as Ireland name 42-man World Cup training squad
- 'ROG never got his big send-off... Johnny Sexton will be in a bus, heading down Grafton Street!'
- Brian O'Driscoll believes Paul O'Connell, not Ronan O'Gara, will coach Ireland next
- Peter O'Mahony with two best jokes of the night at the Rugby Players Ireland awards