Ireland’s lockdown could provide an upside for Munster’s new coaching team as the province prepares to return to action later this year.
That is the view of former Munster centre Johne Murphy who thinks the indefinite suspension of the Guinness PRO14 campaign due to the Covid-19 pandemic can benefit head coach Johann van Graan and his new coaching ticket featuring Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree.
Ireland’s professional players were stood down by the IRFU on March 20 for eight weeks until May 18 after the Government restricted mass gatherings, a period which currently is in place until May 5.
Munster’s last game before the lockdown was on February 29 and rugby’s governing bodies are working on a contingency to finish the PRO14 season in July and August, subject to government guidelines in the five participating nations, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
All of which has given incoming senior coach Larkham and forwards coach Rowntree the opportunity to properly bed in at Munster following their respective arrivals in late pre-season and November.
Munster have been hit by injuries to key players and a lack of fluency and consistency of selection this season as they develop their gameplan under the new coaches contributed to a Heineken Champions Cup pool exit and some costly PRO14 defeats. While the players try to tick over with their fitness in isolation, Murphy is sure van Graan, Larkham, and Rowntree are also putting their extended break to good use for the Munster cause.
"It's probably the best mid-season review period that they're ever going to get,” Murphy said. “They've been able to go back through every single game over this period, really go through what's worked, what hasn't worked and they can really plan their phases of how they want to get through, step by step until a time when they're back on the pitch so yeah it gives them invaluable time which they wouldn't have had because they would have been coming into a phase where the internationals would have to be integrated back in and then they kick in again in what was their strive to get into another semi-final in the PRO14.
“They wouldn't have had that time to reset, re-evaluate what has gone well and what hasn't gone well and it gives them an opportunity to get rid of the stuff which hasn't gone well and really focus on what has and gives them a chance to layer over what they're trying to do over a period of time whenever that time comes."
Murphy was speaking as he launched The Big Rugby Run to raise funds for the Feed The Heroes campaign to deliver meals to Covid-19 frontline staff.
He is encouraging rugby clubs and teams of all ages to join the May 9 event, a marathon team relay passing the virtual baton online.
His idea is to give players whose seasons have been cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic the opportunity to run a marathon relay, and he has recruited three teams of fellow past Munster players for the run, as well as similar teams from Leinster and Connacht.
- Cathal Sheridan
- Mike Sherry
- Jerry Flannery
- Ronan O’Mahony
- Mossy Lawlor
- Barry Murphy
- Marcus Horan
- Denis Hurley
- Anthony Horgan
- Greg Tuohy
- John Quill
- Paul McCarthy
- Scott Deasy
- Duncan Williams
- Mick O’Driscoll
- John O’Driscoll
- John Kelly
- Dominic Crotty
Murphy said he was honoured to be in a relay team with former Munster team-mate and now Cork University Hospital doctor Tom Gleeson, Ireland women’s duo Linda Djougang, a nurse, and doctor Claire McLaughlin as well as current Munster player Billy Holland.
“I’m incredibly humbled to have them running with me. I’m not looking forward to running 10K, it’s the first time that I’ve ever been past 5K. I ran 5K 10 days ago to see how bad it was going to be and my God. Gleese went out for a run last night and he rang me after, ‘you lied about how hard this was going to be!’
“It’s great. The reaction has been brilliant so far. More than 20 past players from Munster are doing it, they’re all going to run 5 to 6K each in three past Munster players teams. There’s a Leinster team, a Connacht team and Humps is working on an Ulster team for me.
“The hashtag is #runtogetherstayapart, we’re trying to bring back rugby teams of all ages, so Under-12s, my nephews who play, Under-11s, U12s, they didn’t get to go to their final-year blitzes together, so it’s a way of bringing rugby teams and clubs back together, just for one day.
“I know we’re going to be apart but we will be together and we’ll be able to communicate and contact each other through all different ways and means. Like my Mum, she’s in the cocooning bracket and I won’t give out her age because she’d shoot me but for someone like her that has learned how to use Houseparty and Facetime, to be able to contact each other that way, that’s what we have to do now. So if we’re going to do it together, let’s do it that way and have a bit of fun.
“Ultimately, getting out, I’ve realised over the last 10 days, getting out for a run, exercise, it’s so good for your headspace and it’s been very important to us as a family, that myself and Kate can get out at different times to do our bit. Look, it’s a bit of fun, it’s going to be hard for the people that are running past 5K but it’s great and to have that team of four running alongside me is really really great.”