Rassie Erasmus believes Munster’s new world class High Performance Centre can be a major recruitment tool for the province as they bid to rejoin the European rugby elite.
The new director of rugby is the lucky recipient of a state of the art training centre at the University of Limerick which for the first time in the professional era brings Munster players and staff together under one roof, ending 20 years of twin-base model which split squad members between Cork and Limerick.
Just arrived from South Africa this summer, Erasmus only had to wait three months to receive the keys for the facility, part of a €15 million UL construction project that will also feature a new 25-metre swimming pool and diving pool.
That some of his predecessors succeeded from two bases has earned the respect of Erasmus, who believes the new High Performance Centre can only benefit the existing squad and make attracting new signings all the easier.
Pics: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
“From a recruitment side of things, sharing with a young player or even an older player who wants to finish his career here, I think any stage of their careers this is a fantastic spot to come to now and for coaching staff,” Erasmus said yesterday, as Munster opened its doors and showed off their impressive new centre of rugby operations.
“When (new loan signing) Jaco Taute saw this, when (former Stormers lock) Jean Kleyn saw this, the guys I know who came here who were used to working in South Africa, immediately they want to take a photo, ‘I want to send this to my mum, my dad, my friends outside, because this is really world class’.”
Housed in a newly-constructed three-story building connected to the existing UL Sports Arena and the new aquatic centre which will come online in January, Munster’s HPC, with a floor area of 3,270 square metres, cost more than €250,000 to equip including a gym with capacity for 45 players to use in one session, a 65-seat auditorium for team meetings and a video analysis suite sponsored by CompuB with 15 Apple desktop computers with a layout designed by head performance analysts George Murray and Paul O’Connell.
And in placing the senior squad’s working areas on the top floor with the academy located on the ground floor, there is the psychological as well as physical journey to the top for the young hopefuls to aspire to.
“The amount of planning that went into this, the whole flow of the building from S&C right through to the coaches and everything in between, from performance analysis to nutrition, there’s such a nice flow,” Erasmus said. “And also the way the young players can aspire to getting to the top, physically and literally speaking.
“So I think all of that work is not only impressive but very productive and I think that’s what it makes it from my side very, very special.”
Erasmus’s only concern is that players may soon start to take their surroundings for granted, adding: “One of the big things I’ll keep focusing on is making sure that the players currently in the system remember and understand, because the first two or three days it’s fantastic but the modern-era players sometimes forget how privileged they are so I’ll be making sure that we understand daily that we’re really privileged, because they can get used to things like this.”
Listening to senior players Conor Murray and CJ Stander, however, it appears the fears of their boss may be misplaced. “It’s perfect, everything we thought it would be and more,” Murray said. “I still can’t get over it, I actually drive a kilometre to work and a kilometre home again in the evening, and that’s all I have to do.
“It’s just much, much better for the squad to be a cohesive unit and to get work done. We can come here for little meetings, big meetings, you’re not driving to Cork, stiff out of a car, lads aren’t coming to Limerick and vice-versa.
“It’s a world-class facility and it will only help us in our quest. We’re just getting a lot more done, it’s that plain and simple. We’re together more often, we’re a lot closer together, people are more accessible and we can get a lot more work done.”
Stander added: “I don’t know about Rugby League, but it’s the best base (I’ve seen) in Rugby Union, I think anyway. There’s nothing like it in South Africa that I know of. There’s a good flow to the building, a good vibe, and I think if we get used to it there is going to be no excuses going into the future.”
Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald suggested Erasmus would not have joined the province if the status quo had been maintained in Cork and Limerick and the former Springbok flanker said: “If it wasn’t in the one place, I think it would have been really tough to be only seeing guys twice a week and maybe a captains’ practice. One centre for any future coach wouldn’t have been a deal breaker but it would have them thinking ‘how are we going to manage this?’
“It would have been a difficult situation if it was two bases. I really think in the modern era you would struggle to get results, no matter how good a coach or a player you are. I just think it’s impractical to get results that way, definitely.”
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