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"His timing was so unfortunate" - Gerry Thornley on Damien De Allende

Gerry Thornley explains that Damien De Allende could have been a much bigger star at Munster if it wasn't for the timing of his arrival.

Irish journalist Gerry Thornley joined Wednesday Night Rugby to discuss Damien De Allende.

South African center Damien De Allende will leave Munster at the end of the season.

De Allende and RG Snyman were brought in two years ago to propel Munster to another level. But De Allende had minimal impact in Munster. He was not necessarily a disappointment. De Allende played very well as an inside center, but he also wasn't the world class talent that he promised to be.

The combination of Chris Farrell and De Allende in the center was supposed to challenge Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw in Leinster. Leinster have the clear advantage ahead of the two sides' meeting this weekend.

Although De Allende's arrival was met with fanfare, he spent most of his Munster career playing in empty stadiums. The center will play his seventh game against Leinster this weekend and it will be the first with fans in attendance. As such, his forgettable spell with the team is heightened surpassed just the lack of impact on the field.

He never really carved out an identity in Limerick.

Gerry Thornley empathizes with the departing De Allende.

"His timing was so unfortunate for him," Thornley said.

"It must have been a very difficult time for all the overseas based players. Living abroad, playing abroad in Ireland [during Covid]. That would be a common theme throughout the global game. You think of Finlay Bealham seeing his parents for the first time in two and a half years after he got that try against England."

De Allende's long-term plan when he signed for Munster was to only stay for two years. He is expected to return to Japan after revealing that he won't continue playing in Europe. De Allende didn't set Irish rugby alight, but Thornley believes that he is a very good player. He played well in Munster, but didn't get the chances he deserved.

"I think back to his first half performance against Toulouse. He absolutely tore them apart. He's much more than a crash ball merchant. Munster used him quite well in some very clever strike moves as a decoy. He's got good hands and he's actually a very elusive runner. It's not just all about the power and strength.

"That first half against Toulouse he cut them apart and for some reason he hardly got the ball in the second half, which I couldn't quite fathom.

"Imagine if that had been a packed Thomond Park as Damien De Allende was tearing them to shreds. The perception of him then."

Munster hoped for more but they can blame themselves as much as De Allende for not getting it. Covid made things difficult and it's an easy out, but Johann Van Graan's departure and De Allende's departure suggests both players had one foot out the door this season either way.

29-year-old Tongan center Malakai Fekitoa will join Munster from Wasps after this season.

Ireland are going in the right direction - Niamh Briggs.


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