Stephen Larkham has been labelled a “signature signing” for Munster and one that can help the province’s talented backline to click and the team to reconnect with a style that delivered a pair of Heineken Cups.
High praise, indeed, from Ronan O’Gara who also shared his thoughts on the absence of any locals from Johann van Graan’s coaching staff, and on whether he himself may return from his global travels one day and play a part in Munster’s future.
Larkham and O’Gara’s paths crossed as players and there was an admiration for the Australian great in the Irish ranks back in the day.
O’Gara spoke of the “aura” which Larkham will bring given that playing career and his success as a coach with both the Brumbies and the Wallabies.
“The Aussies are always exceptional on attack frameworks... They really like patterns but, with the natural ability the Irish have in a pattern and a framework and their ability to play, I think that approach will suit Munster.
"They need to develop their game a bit because it was a traditional kind of Munster game.
“But then it became a South African-based game, which is a little bit more restricted than a Munster game because people forget what, for example, Munster was.
O’Gara looks at the Munster back line on paper and sees a collection of talented individuals, many of them involved with Ireland, but one that isn’t living up to that billing on the park. Larkham, he feels, could “reignite” that unit.
The Australian’s arrival, while welcomed as a coup, added to the cosmopolitan feel of a coaching staff that will also contain an Englishman and two South Africans this season but the lack of any input from a Munster voice for the first time has been a source of discussion too.
O’Gara sees the point. In an ideal world, there would be a strong local presence in the coaching box but the bottom line is that these things are more complicated in modern professional sport. Munster can hardly appoint a South African head coach and then demand that he surrounds himself with staff not necessarily of his choosing.
“You need a really aligned management team to get the best out of your players so for me that is the road they have gone down. Johann is their man and he is making his appointments with the backing of the Munster board.
"There are good coaches out there from Munster in terms of Mike Prendergast. He has been out there a long time and reports on him are very favourable. There is Mossy Lawlor, there is Denis Leamy, Paul O’Connell, John Coughlan. People like that.
“They should not be lost to the game but maybe everyone is in their own little bubble trying to get the best out of themselves.
“I don’t know what conversations are happening but you would like to think they have been in touch with these people to try and seek them out.”
And as for himself? Will the prodigal son return one day?
“I don’t know (what will happen) but I am a positive person.
“Home is home and Munster is my home so in that regard it is something that you would love to do, but I think in this game the ‘now’ is so important... it just flies like that (clicks fingers).
“I am just focused on now and trying to do the best I can in my La Rochelle job.”