David Wallace believes Munster need to look beyond the dressing room walls for answers to their crisis, with former head coach Declan Kidney and new Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell two of the men he feels could make a difference at the struggling province.
Saturday’s humiliating defeat to a Stade Francais side playing half the game with 14 men marked the sixth loss in seven games for Anthony Foley’s side, now out of the European reckoning and facing a fight to qualify for the Champions Cup next year via the Guinness PRO12.
The inexperience of Foley, in the second year of his first head coaching role, and his lieutenants has been pinpointed as just one of many factors in the side’s downwards spiral and Wallace suggested they “need some help, in terms of someone who has been there and done it before”.
He isn’t the first person to suggest Kidney, who guided Munster to Heineken Cup titles in 2006 and 2008 and Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2009, would be the ideal man to take a panoramic look at the current set-up and move forward accordingly.
“I’ve been saying it for a while he’s an invaluable guy to have in any squad.
“When I was coming through in terms of getting a team together and building a team, he (was) brilliant.
“He comes from a teacher background but is also a guidance counsellor and understands how people think.
“He tries to create a community and makes sure that everything is looked after.
“He looks at it from maybe a slightly different point of view from your typical rugby coach.
“It’s just all about what’s on the pitch. It’s kinda three quarters of what’s off the pitch and that’s the way he thinks.”
Kidney is currently responsible for sport at UCC but Wallace suggested he would be ideally suited to a potential Director of Rugby role with Munster, though he stressed people above and below the coaching staff all need to stand up and be counted.
What is apparent is their woes are micro as well as macro.
Talk of diminishing financial income, increased competition from France and England, the IRFU’s policy of ‘national team first’, a frustrated fan base and half-empty Thomond Park are all very well, but the side clearly needs to do more to help itself.
Last weekend’s loss in Paris was suffered on the back of some appalling individual errors with an inability to tackle a particular blight in that second half, when only a late Conor Murray consolation try prevented a first ever whitewash in Europe.
It is a scenario such as this in which Wallace sees someone like Farrell, who has overseen the defences of the British and Irish Lions and England in recent years, playing a role when the rugby league great lands on Irish soil to assume his new role under Joe Schmidt.
“I know Andy Farrell is coming to Ireland,” said Wallace who is to take part in the third annual Swim Ireland ‘Swim for a Mile Challenge’ this year.
“It would be great to secure him, to bring him down to Munster when he’s not involved with Ireland and have his influence in Munster.
“I don’t know what the situation is there, but I know Irish coaches - not the head coach - have gone to provinces. The likes of Greg Feek. I’d be hoping something like that could happen because, defensively, if you’re leaking tries then you’re not going anywhere.”
Alan Quinlan used words such as “embarrassing”, “humiliating” and “borderline disgraceful” to describe Munster’s Paris performance on TV at the weekend.
Wallace didn’t go that far – “I would never use disgraceful” – but added it summed up the feelings of the average fan pretty well.
Munster’s production line is another perceived weak link right now and, though Wallace believes the talent is in the squad to fare far better, he feels the means of bringing young players through is another area in need of reappraisal.
“For me, the B&I Cup isn’t a competition that breeds the players you need. Maybe having more guys of a professional standing playing in the AIL… when I was coming through, you were playing against the likes of Frankie (Sheahan) or Rog, these kids of guys.
“There weren’t as many provincial games but if you get guys out more often with their clubs … you need to breed players on the pitch whereas it seems they are breeding them a bit more in the gym until they get to the top level.
“For guys like tens and in technical positions, they need to be playing rugby the whole time.”
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