Why Munster should not sign France centre Mathieu Bastareaud 5 months ago

Why Munster should not sign France centre Mathieu Bastareaud

There's been a lot of change at Munster over the last few years.

Rassie Erasmus came and went. Johann van Graan replaced him and before long also replaced his assistant coaches in Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones. Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree quickly took their spots and now the province is being linked with a move for Mathieu Bastareaud with multiple outlets reporting the news. Never a dull moment at Thomond.

The club in many ways are hand tied at the moment. They need to get better, that much is clear. Three successive exits in the Champions Cup semi-finals and back-to-back exits in the PRO14 semi-finals indicates that Munster are not where they want to be but it also indicates that they're not a million miles off either.

The club were shrewd last season with the acquisitions of Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne and Mike Haley to name but a few and traditionally they've done well in the past with foreign recruitment; Doug Howlett, Jean de Villiers, Jim Williams, Paul Warwick, CJ Stander and the list goes on.

Bastareaud has the international pedigree to play for Munster with 54 caps for France but he also has the baggage to put you off.

He lied about being assaulted on the French tour to New Zealand and Australia in June 2009. He served a five-week suspension for a swinging forearm on Castres' Christophe Samson at the start of last season before then serving another five-week suspension for calling Treviso's Sebastian Negri a “f**king faggot” a few months later.

Do the IRFU really want to host the Union Cup (Europe’s biggest LGBT+ inclusive rugby tournament) in June and then sign off on Bastareaud in July? Did they not learn from the Gerbrandt Grobler situation last year? Why bring these situations to your own back yard?

Irish Rugby has suffered a series of PR nightmares over the last year, most recently Leinster's end of season celebrations in May, do you really need to create another situation where you can be belted with yet another stick?

Furthermore, what's to gain here? Bastareaud has signed a deal to play for Rugby United New York from January so any deal for the former France captain would be a short term contract that would see him miss most of the club's season.

The province have failed to make the knockout stages of the Champions Cup just three times in the last decade. They have failed to make the semi-finals of the PRO12/14 just once during that time frame.

History suggests it's not November and December where they struggle so why bring in a foreign player for just three months? I mean this is not exactly like Alby Mathewson being brought in as injury cover when the club's best player is sidelined with a neck injury.

Granted, they have the unenviable draw of Saracens and Racing in the pool stages next season but the Rugby World Cup will be well and truly over by that stage which means Bastareaud at most could only play three rounds of Pool matches with round four typically beginning near mid-January, at which point he would be in New York.

Outside of the Champions Cup, even if you think that Chris Farrell will be going to the Rugby World Cup, and it will most likely come down to him or Rory Scannell with Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki virtual certainties barring injury, you still have Sam Arnold and Dan Goggin there.

Why not give those two extended run in the first team alongside Scannell/Farrell and see if they can ultimately turn into long term midfield options for the future? What message does it send to those two players?

'Lads we know you were looking forward to getting some more gametime with Rory and Chris potentially at the World Cup, but we're going to bring in Mathieu here for three months and he only has the 54 international caps and multiple European Cups so best of luck'.

Whether it's the lying about an assault, the homophobic slurs, the on-field cheap shots, the fallout from the Gerbrandt Grobler situation last year, the fact he'll be playing for New York in January and the fact that he'll potentially block the path for the likes of Goggin and Arnold at a time where they could really use the game time, there's a glut of reasons this doesn't make sense for Munster.

And for the IRFU; are you really going to deny former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore the chance to play for the province and yet sign off on Bastareaud for three months?

Munster need more talent. The fact that the like of Jean Kleyn, Chris Cloete, Stander, Beirne, Carbery, Haley and Farrell were all regular starters last season indicates that the province have had to extend far beyond the six counties for players.

But is the Bastareaud really the answer? He's one brain explosion away from spending the majority of his time in Limerick on the sidelines.