Belfast Telegraph

Larkham making a major impact: Scannell

New ideas: Stephen Larkham is doing it his way at Munster
New ideas: Stephen Larkham is doing it his way at Munster

By Cian Tracey

Stephen Larkham wasn't naive enough to think that he was going to join Munster late in pre-season, rip up the script and start again.

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Instead, it was always going to be a gradual process in which the Australian implemented his attacking game plan, but the early stages of the season have already shown glimpses of what he is looking to bring to the party.

There had been an acceptance across the board that Munster's attacking game had gone stale and, in order to get back to the top of Europe, they needed to change something.

Larkham was never going to make such a big move across the world with his young family unless he was given assurances that he had the licence to get his ideas across.

It is still very early days in that regard, yet there is a renewed optimism in Munster that the province is finally building towards something special again.

The addition of Larkham and Graham Rowntree is a huge reason for that, as well as the likelihood of World Cup winners Damian de Allende and RG Snyman joining next season.

The word coming out of the squad is that Larkham has already had a significant impact, with some players believing that their development is being accelerated at a much faster rate.

That optimism will have been felt since Larkham was first linked with the job, especially for a player like Rory Scannell, who also started his career as an out-half before moving into his current playmaking midfield role.

Scannell has had to put his disappointment at missing out on World Cup selection to one side. His response has been impressive.

The 25-year-old has started the season well and, after his man-of-the-match display in last weekend's win over Ulster, he appears to be thriving under Larkham's tutelage.

"It's been great," Scannell said of Larkham's early impact.

"He would have been someone I'd have watched a lot when I was younger, as a 10. He was a quality player and he's gone on to do some good coaching with Australia and the Brumbies, so for us it's a great addition.

"I don't think we're going to discredit everything we've done over the last couple of years. He's just coming in and is slowly adding a few small tweaks and changes that can make us better and improve our skill-set. Obviously the end goal is to improve our overall attack.

"Especially with the backs, our handling under pressure, our kicking under pressure and getting away accurate passes and kicks. For the forwards and backs, those contact skills, breakdown, body height is massive in contact, so those changes in our skill-set, hopefully, will all come together and help improve our overall attack.

"Our attack has been good over the last couple of years but hasn't been good in the semis, so if we keep building then hopefully, come the end of the season, we'll be looking for a trophy.

"There's a lot to happen between now and the semis but that's where you want to be, and hopefully those small changes that he does make will help add to our attack and then we can show that, because we haven't done that in semis recently."

Having that variety in attack is vital for Munster's development this season and with the players already buying into Larkham's way of thinking, it bodes well ahead of Saturday's Champions Cup opener against an Ospreys side in all sorts of bother.

With Joey Carbery (ankle) and JJ Hanrahan (hamstring) both set to miss the game through injury, there will be a big responsibility on Tyler Bleyendaal to run the attack.

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