A defiant Anthony Foley has declared that last week’s leak of an internal player report will galvanise rather than hinder the Munster squad and staff as they approach his first season in charge.
Described yesterday as a routine document, the report is nonetheless said to have contained a number of less-than-flattering comments about some players and the timing of its emergence has been equally unfortunate.
Munster’s new season kicks off this Friday with a Guinness Pro12 tie against Edinburgh in Limerick and the hope will be that yesterday’s address to the media will bring about some closure ahead of the business to come.
Foley and Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald met the issue head-on and side-by-side at Thomond Park yesterday afternoon, the latter revealing that the sending of the internal memo to the players was down to a simple act of human error.
As for how it made its way beyond the dressing room walls, Foley was sanguine.
“To be honest with you, it’s not bad because, in terms of assuming everybody is out there to help you and give you a pat on the back and hope you [do] well and wish you well and all that, [it] is a clear reminder that there are people out there that want to get you and want to see you fail.
“That’s me as an individual, that’s us as a team,” Foley added. “There are people out there that have that in their mind. It’s great going into the season knowing that. It’s great. That can give us a galvanising effect. So we just want to make sure that we keep rugby in mind. That’s the most important thing for us.”
There were certainly no visible ill effects evident on Friday evening when Munster recorded a win against London Irish in Waterford in their last-pre-season outing prior to this Friday’s Pro12 opener at home to Edinburgh.
“No, it wasn’t all that awkward,” said out-half Ian Keatley who didn’t feature at the RSC. “We were all a bit surprised when it first came out on the Wednesday night but that night there was another email sent out.
“Axel addressed it and said ‘the email has been sent out and we apologise profusely but if you want to come in and talk to me I am not going to hold anything back and you can talk to me’, and it was addressed very well.
“Of course, when first see it in writing you are like ‘er’ but, in fairness, you kinda know yourself what you attributes are, what you contribute to the squad. It is kinda different when you see it in writing. But then I think most players knew themselves that it is what you are like and you can take it in a positive or a negative way. Me, I take it in a positive way on things I need to work on and, if it will make you a better player, that is what I want.”
Like Foley and Fitzgerald, Keatley was eager to move on. Foley met players individually to discuss the issue last Thursday and spoke to the group prior to the Exiles clash the next day but insisted there was no ‘clear-the-air’ meeting. The last words said on it as a group were spoken on Monday.
Fitzgerald had earlier described it as an “accidental dispatch” and one which occurred last Wednesday. Within an hour, efforts had been made to retrieve the data and a full review was subsequently launched to determine what had occurred.
The province sought legal advice from their solicitors Ronan Daly Jermyn and notified the Data Protection Commissioner whose office expressed their satisfaction they had followed the correct procedures while confirming no action would be taken.
The matter was complicated further when it leaked into the public domain although Fitzgerald and Foley insisted that procedures were being put in place to ensure there would be no repeat of the initial error higher up.
“What we tried to do was do everything correctly. Some of what we did may not have been necessary,” said Foley. “Other entities may not have gone that far, but I think we’ve done the right thing. It’s the right thing for the organisation. It’s the right thing for the whole brand itself.”
Meanwhile, work will begin shortly on the site of Munster’s new training base at the University of Limerick after planning permission for the facility, including tweaks made by the province, was approved last month.
Construction will begin in January with a move-in date of January 2016 still envisaged.
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