Peter O'Mahony has seen the impact overseas signings can have on Irish provinces, transforming them from contenders to champions and the Munster captain thinks the arrival of RG Snyman and Damian de Allende can have a similarly positive effect.
The Ireland flanker cites the influence imports such as Doug Howlett, Trevor Halstead and Rua Tipoki had in helping to turn Munster into Heineken Cup winners a dozen years ago followed by Rocky Elsom and Isa Nacewa in equal measure at Leinster.
These are early days and contact with the new men is limited by Covid-19 protocols as Munster resume training in small groups in Limerick but O’Mahony’s hope is that towering lock Snyman and classy centre de Allende can prove just as important to the ambitions of the squad he leads.
“It’s great to have signed guys of that calibre,” O’Mahony said. “You go through the provinces who have won the European Cup and the PRO14, you look at the teams in those days, and they have had world-class signings in nearly every one of them.
“They are the kind of calibre of player that you sign to win trophies with. It’s very encouraging to be signing players of that calibre.
“You think of guys like Dougie and Rua Tipoki, guys like Trevor Halstead, Rocky Elsom, these guys were instrumental in Leinster and Munster’s Heineken Cup wins over the last 10, 12 years. Guys like Isa, him and Dougie became backbones of the provincial teams and just were incredible for long, long periods of time for their clubs.
“They’re the kind of signings, obviously they’re well paid but they’re worth every cent and they make a big difference through their playing, their commitment to the club, their accessibility. They’re very important to us, whatever way you look at it and you’d hope and you’d like to think that the guys we’ve signed this summer will be with us for a long time and will add a huge amount to us.”
I haven’t come across Damian. He is in a different group. RG is in my group. He is an incredible specimen altogether. I have never seen anything like it, (a) very impressive, physical man.
“He’s 6’10” or 11 or seven foot — whatever he is. He looks like he can shift as well, doing speed work. He is a serious-looking athlete.
“Look, I obviously haven’t played with him yet but you have seen footage of the guy. He is just coming off the back of winning a World Cup, that says enough really in itself.”
The Springbok duo are not the only newcomers with Munster also signing Irish-qualified full-back Matt Gallagher from Saracens and young tighthead Roman Salanoa from Leinster during the summer. Helping them settle into new surroundings as quickly as possible has been a priority for O’Mahony.
“It’s very important. Obviously these guys are a long way from home. It’s certainly something we have spoken about over the last couple of years — getting guys to settle in a bit quicker and helping them by putting an arm out to see what they need.
“I think Munster, in general, has improved in that regard — simple things like getting them sorted with a mobile phone.
“As soon as they arrive, these are the kind of things that would sometimes pass you by. But it’s the little things that make a big difference for getting guys settled in.
“I think we have improved in that hugely over the last couple of years. And hopefully, we can continue to improve because it’s important to get them settled in early and get them enjoying themselves and getting them in amongst the lads.
“It’s probably a little bit more difficult with the two guys (Snyman and de Allende) arriving from Japan and having to self-isolate for two weeks. It’s a very different first two weeks to what a lot of lads would have.
“But look, these are the times we are in, unfortunately.”
World-class signings and an academy system producing quality homegrown talent, with five new graduates being promoted to the senior squad since the shutdown, give O’Mahony belief Munster have a squad now ready to compete for a first trophy since 2011.
“We have an extremely competitive squad. We have signed very well. We always depend on our academy to produce guys who are capable of playing not just provincial rugby, but international rugby and beyond.
“You’re certainly seeing some of those, that calibre of player emerging from our academy again over the last couple of years, as always. It’s great to have guys like that, young guys coming through and to complement squads then with guys like Matt Gallagher, RG, Damian, these people, it’s certainly very encouraging.”