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'I can understand Munster supporters being tired' | Andy Dunne

Munster supporters have every right to feel jaded by the style of play coming from the men in red, according to former Leinster and Connacht flyhalf Andy Dunne.



Rugby

'I can understand Munster supporters being tired' | Andy Dunne


Munster supporters have every right to feel jaded by the style of play coming from the men in red, according to former Leinster and Connacht flyhalf Andy Dunne.

Exeter hosted Johann van Graan's men in the first leg of the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 in Sandy Park on Saturday.

Munster were disrupted before kick-off with a number of injuries and illnesses ruling out key players. However, they still had a strong mix of experienced players and youthful exuberance to lean on.

While Exeter got off to a strong start by scoring in the opening five minutes, the remainder of the first half was relatively dull from both sides. It was also the first time since 2018 that a team had held Munster scoreless at half time.

The hosts were down to 13 men for nine minutes of the match, with both Olly Woodburn and Patrick Schickerling seeing yellow within a minute of each other.

However, Munster were unable to capitalise on their two man advantage fully, only scoring a single try throughout the game, losing 13-8 in the end.

Dunne, who was on commentary duty for Off The Ball, spoke with John Duggan after the match. He suggested that Munster supporters should feel tired with what is coming out of Thomond Park.

"You have a case where people are unfortunately voting with their feet," Dunne said, referring to Thomond Park not selling out against Leinster a week ago.

"They are jaded! I can understand a supporter of this team being tired. I'm tired watching after 80 minutes! Their loyal fans have watched them on a weekly basis; it would be exhausting."

'There's no clear identity'

The Munster management structure is due to be shaken up completely. Head coach Johann van Graan is off to Bath at the end of the season, while backline coach Stephen Larkham will be returning to Australia.

Of the current backroom team, just Graham Rowntree, the current forwards coach, will remain at Thomond. Dunne believes that these cracks are clear in the game plan on the pitch.

"If you look at their management, you have Rowntree who was part of the famous ABC front row of Leicester with [Darren] Garforth [Richard] Cockerill," Dunne said.

"They had a very clearly defined way of playing. Munster had so many opportunities in that yellow card period to impose themselves as a scrum against a weakened and vulnerable Exeter scrum. They chose to ignore that.

"So, there's no clear identity and purpose in that approach. Maybe Rowntree's message isn't getting through there."

While there was a lack of forward control for those moments of advantage in the game, Dunne feels that the backline decision-making was often worse.

"They ran the ball from deep on so many occasions, which isn't the Munster way," Dunne said. "To me, that looks like Larkham's influence.

"It looks like a bad version of the ACT Brumbies who were so successful back in the late '90s, early 2000s. They are trying to play like that, run it out from your own territory and attack space from deep.

"They let themselves down on a number of occasions doing that. I can't see a clear van Graan input at all across that.

"I think that becomes exhausting over time for a culture that Munster fans have become used to."

Munster need one clear strategy

Ultimately, Dunne feels that Munster do not look like a single unit. He believes that either they have not been instructed on the game plan and strategy, or they simply are not gelling together to implement it.

"This looks like a bunch of really heroic and courageous athletes who don't spend time understanding clear strategies in game," Dunne said. "Or they are not being coached about it.

"I think it makes sense that a Munster audience starts to lose interest over time because they are not seeing a shift or they are not seeing any discernible change in direction."

Munster were saved on a few occasions by moments of brilliance from individuals. One such moment was a Keith Earls track back which saved a certain try.

While Dunne acknowledged these moments, he did not let them paper over the cracks. Munster needed to be more consistent throughout the 80 minutes.

"It was all last-ditch heroics," Dunne said. "That's not how they want to play. If you are picking out anyone who constructively made a difference across the 80 minutes, to be honest, I would struggle.

"I didn't see anyone who was consistently doing their job in a constructive way. There were many people who had try-saving moments, Conor Murray indeed had two of them.

"On the flip side of that, his job as a nine is to show and exercise a bit more control in the game. Some of his kicking was disappointing to say the least.

"So, it's a team with a split personality!"

Munster will now need to win by more than five points in the second leg in Thomond Park if they are to advance to the quarter finals.

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