Keith Wood has called for root and branch reform at Munster and has warned it will take his former province “a number of years” to return to their former glories.
The province is in crisis after Saturday’s defeat at Stade Francais condemned them to an early exit from the European Champions Cup with two rounds of the pool stages still to play.
Head coach Anthony Foley has admitted he will consider his position if he does not think he can improve results but Wood believes Munster’s problems run far deeper than his former team-mate.
Alan Quinlan led the condemnation after the defeat to Stade, calling the loss “embarrassing” and adding “the whole organisation needs to be dissected now”.
Wood is in full agreement with the former back row, admitting the current side bear no comparison to those including the likes of Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer.
And while Wood, who spent a season with Munster from 1999, believes Foley could still be the man to transform Munster’s fortunes long-term he has warned it will not be a simple process.
Rather he has backed Quinlan’s demand for a full report into the state of rugby at all levels of the province, with recruitment and the development of young talent coming in for criticism.
And the 43-year-old has bluntly told Munster’s fans that it will be a long time before they can dream of being crowned European champions again.
“I am concerned by Munster, of course I am,” said Wood. “Munster have had a huge and long period of time at the top table.
“They are off that top table at the moment and they need to get back there. For that it does require root and branch [reform].
“I think it will take some time. I am not worried by it, rather I am realistic about it. I think it will be a number of years.
“People say it’s a rebuilding phase — it’s not, it is the total restructuring of a team that was there for 10 or 12 years.
“It hasn’t been filled with players of commensurate quality. Some are. Some players are absolutely fantastic but you need more players to be playing at a higher level all the time.
“That is the nature of where Munster is at the moment.
“I was interested in listening to Alan Quinlan’s comments immediately after the game.
“They were quite raw and very close to the bone, sometimes you would say that could be too close.
“But I felt it was coming from a guy who had lived and breathed it for a long time and felt that painfully.
“I think if you break down what he said, it was a fair assessment of it. That there needs to be a genuine assessment of Munster rugby from top to bottom — and there does.
“I would say there are holes in a few different places, and I would say as a team they seem to be well off the mark. They don’t have a huge amount of strength in depth.”
Wood does, though, believe that Foley has the character to drag Munster out of the mire — although he suggests the 42-year-old needs to change his coaching staff to help him do so.
And he has called on Foley to test out his youngsters after their European campaign died an early death.
Wood, speaking at the announcement of Standard Life as the principal partner of the 2017 Lions tour, added: “Anthony is a really good friend of mine.
“He is under pressure, of course he is. He has the rugby nous to dig out of it and to get them back, but you need more voices in there as well. It can’t just be him either. Something has to change.
“Does he feel it deeply? Absolutely. But you know what, I look at it slightly differently. I didn’t think they would win in France, I didn’t think it was in the capacity of the team.
“But that then means they have one focus — they need to concentrate on the rest of the season. That means doing well, promoting players from within and doing the best with the group you possibly can.
“Alleviate some of the pressure, don’t worry about the Champions Cup. Worry about next year’s Champions Cup and make certain you are where you need to be. If that means Munster can win the Pro12 [then great] — but in my view I don’t think the squad is there to do that.
“People say it would be a failure if they don’t do that but I think you need to be realistic with what you have at your disposal.”
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