To the rest of Europe, here’s a warning: keep an eye on Munster

I got off a flight in Christchurch Sunday weary and with the seat of the pants stuck to my backside. By Monday morning though, the first shrill whistle of Crusaders’ pre-season had that whiff of fresh ambition about it, writes Ronan O'Gara. 

For the likes of Ollie Jager, the young Irish lad who greeted me on my first morning here a year ago, desperate for one of those prized Super Rugby contracts. Ollie came down here from Dublin as a back row but five years and some serious extra kgs later he’s been turned into a tighthead. Last year his hopes and dreams were cut short by a serious shoulder injury, ending his season before it ever got started.

There’s another prospect with us in pre-season desperate to rebuild his rugby career. You might have heard of Sevu Reece. He’s 21. Connacht had agreed a deal with the exciting Fijian winger out of Waikato to come to Galway before details emerged in New Zealand of a domestic violence charge against him.

Stung by the Grobler episode at Munster, Connacht — or the IRFU — pulled the plug on the deal. Sevu had his day in court, and the judge granted him a discharge without conviction and fined him $750 (€450) after taking into account mitigating factors. He made a bad error, he was remorseful in his first appearance before the courts, he held his hands up. He’s trying to rebuild his career.

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