Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Penney must revert to Munster way

What is it they say about a bad dress rehearsal leading to a good on-the-day performance? Whatever it is, for the sake of Munster rugby, let us sincerely hope that proves to be the case for what we got in Scotstoun on Friday night was a ragged and disjointed losing effort in which no one unit of the side was remotely in touch with any other.

For the time of year it was a performance totally out of character with what we have come to expect from the side that continually sets the competitive standard above all others in Europe.

Whatever may be lacking in skill has almost always been covered up through raw-boned competitiveness and intensity.

In Glasgow, against a vastly superior Scottish district, the twice Heineken Cup champions were stripped bare. With the week that's in it and Harlequins next up there is precious little room for manoeuvre but if alarm bells aren't ringing in high places down south then they should be.

We have all supported this new management in its attempt to develop a hitherto successful formula to meet the demands of an ever-expanding attacking game.

The mere principle sells itself. Rob Penney and Simon Mannix have preached patience, as so they should, but there comes a time when even that most precious of commodities wears thin.

Penney's ambition is admirable, his pigheadedness not so. As of now Munster do not possess the type of players comfortable in possession to play the type of Crusader rugby to which the head coach aspires.

If last Friday's comprehensive drubbing proved one thing and nothing else it is that the time for experimentation has long passed.

You develop your system to suit the players and NOT the other way around.

With Paul O'Connell back in harness and some seriously talented back row forwards now in situ it is time to revert to type. Either that or this management may not have the time or opportunity to implement the total rugby blueprint to which they genuinely aspire.

Leinster, under Michael Cheika and Jono Gibbes, developed a hard-forward edge leaving it to Joe Schmidt to fine tune the top quality backs already in place and then weave that dynamic for the type of aesthetic winning rugby we have witnessed in recent seasons. For Penney, Mannix and Anthony Foley there is no such luxury.

Three intercept tries at this level of the game don't just happen by chance. It is a combination of the opposition reading in advance a game plan in which they recognise an inability to execute efficiently, allied to a team ill at ease with its pre-determined course of action.

In any normal course of events when you are drifting out of your comfort zone you revert to type. If ever that principle applied it is to Munster now.

We are not suggesting a revolt, just a sensible meeting between senior players and management to agree a short term strategy to get them out of a bind. A similar loose and laissez faire approach and they will be ripped apart at the Stoop.

A half century of points, including six tries, conceded in the run in to a Heineken Cup quarter-final is most definitely not the Munster way.

Surely if Glasgow has confirmed nothing else it is that this Munster squad as currently constituted is attempting a style of play way beyond its means i.e. skill and ability.

For sure there is a problem but there is also a quick fix available from within. Some might call it playing to win ugly but when did that ever bother any Munster team in any era in the past?

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