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11th Oct 2017

Weekend reminder means Munster must prove doubters wrong again

Could have done with him

Patrick McCarry

For all the talk of Munster’s intensity, or lack of it, over the weekend, they are definitely short a bruiser or two in their pack.

The summer departures of Donnacha Ryan and Dave Foley – both to France’s Top 14 – were to be offset by two South Africans in the pack.

Gerbrandt Grobler was signed from Racing 92 while Jean Kleyn was backed to make a real impact after regaining full fitness.

Grobler got injured, early doors, but Kleyn got off to a flyer and Munster looked set. Team the big man up with veteran Billy Holland and Munster were set for the big games ahead.

Then, as is so often the case in professional rugby, injury struck. Kleyn has missed the last two games with a neck injury and Munster will dearly hope he can get back on the park as soon as possible.

The province is looking light in the lock department. Former Leinster forward Mark Flanagan has arrived from Saracens on a short-term deal and the coaches are hoping that Robin Copeland can provide cover there, with Jack O’Donoghue backing up CJ Stander at No.8.

Munster were aware from as early as July that signing Scarlets’ Tadhg Beirne was a live option. The move was only confirmed last week but it was perhaps the knowledge of that impending arrival that saw Grobler arrive on a one-year deal.

With the two South Africans battling injury, it makes it all the more mystifying that Munster did not battle harder to hang onto one of either Ryan or Foley.

As far as we understand, both players were keen to make the move to France after receiving salary offers that dwarfed what the IRFU and Munster were putting on the table. However, with Munster riding a wave after their league and cup campaigns last season, it is a shame that they allowed two Irish internationals to exit.

On the same weekend as Munster went with Holland and Copeland [with Flanagan in reserve] Foley came off the bench for Pau, his new club, and rammed over for the winner with minutes to spare. It certainly got Conrad Smith [No.13] going.

Credit: Top14 Officiel

The hope for Munster is that Kleyn returns sooner or later and that either Sean O’Connor or Fineen Wycherley will come good over the course of the season. Between then, the young locks have made seven appearances this season [two starts] but they are highly rated by Jacques Nienaber and Jerry Flannery on the Munster coaching staff.

Ryan is currently on Racing’s injured list in France but Foley is settling in nicely, just as Paddy Butler and James Coughlan did at Pau before him.

In looking to the long-term, Munster may well have damaged their chances in what is already set to be a complicated [coaching changes due in January] season.

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