Stephen Larkham praises Munster's 'exceptional' Irish contingent

Stephen Larkham praises Munster's 'exceptional' Irish contingent

Munster coach Stephen Larkham described the weekend performances of the province’s players in the Six Nations as “exceptional”.

And he paid tribute to how Conor Murray has bounced back from an “emotionally draining” World Cup.

With Ireland now two from two in the tournament, and chasing a Triple Crown against England on Sunday week, Larkham was thrilled with how the Red contingent shone in the green of Ireland.

Larkham said: “CJ has had two man of the matches awards in a row and I was impressed with Bomber (Andrew Conway) on the wing and Keith Earls when he came on. They’re all doing a great job and then there was Pete, CJ and Killer (David Kilcoyne) upfront.

"That’s all good from our perspective and compared to the week before, I thought it was an excellent performance from Ireland at the weekend. This was from another level and the Munster players were exceptional.”

He also had special words of praise for Murray and Peter O’Mahony who have shipped hefty criticism in recent times.“Pete’s work off the ball is something that often goes unspoken while his impact on the ball was outstanding as well. Conor had come off a World Cup campaign that had been emotionally draining for all concerned.

He had a lot of work to do to get his head around all the new patterns and structures. His skills are his strengths, his passes, his kicks, are what set him apart from other nines.

With Tyler Bleyendaal and Joey Bleyendaal still on the long-term injury list (along with Tadhg Beirne and Jean Kleyn, among others), there has been added interest in the performances of Jack Crowley at out-half for the U20s over the last couple of weeks.

“He controlled both games pretty well”, said Larkham. “There’s no limit to where that can go. I think we have a couple of young five eights here at the moment, Ben Healy and Jake Flannery were in the U20 set up last year, so there is definitely that progression coming through”.

However, the former Australian World Cup hero also sounded a cautionary note.

“As a 20-year-old, trying to control a PRO14 fixture is a daunting task and you are not going to get it right straight away. It is going to be a couple of years of finding your feet. Jack has had two good performances now.

I think to prove you are a great player you need to do that over time but all the markings are there that he is going to do that.

"We have two young five eighths that we are trying to get into the mix at the moment. There is a pecking order there at the moment, but Jack is certainly there.”

Larkham is also looking forward to next season’s arrival of South African World Cup winners, Damien de Allende and RG Snyman, and New Zealander Matt Gallagher.

“De Allende is an exciting player,” he enthused. “He has got very good skills. He is a big man and is one of the best-attacking players in the world.

But he is not a one-trick pony where if you shut down his running game you are going to shut him down, he has got all the skill elements.

“He is somewhat of a kicker, he certainly has a good pass, he is powerful through contact, but he also has good evasion, so I think he is going to bring a lot of excitement to the game.”

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