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Munster Made The Right Decision To Keep Anthony Foley For Another Year

Munster  Made The Right Decision To Keep Anthony Foley For Another Year
Conor O'Leary
By Conor O'Leary
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Two years ago, Munster fans were demanding that Anthony Foley be handed the reigns of the province and for Rob Penney to be let go. Just two months later - they got their wish. In his first season as a head coach ever - Foley brought Munster to their first Pro 12 final since they last won the tournament in 2010/11.

In any sane world, that should grant a new and promising coach some time and breathing space to continue to influence his team with ideas.

But this isn't a normal world.

This is the post-World Cup panicked world that we now live in - where the state of Irish rugby is and why aren't the provinces doing as well as they used to? It's easy to point to the struggles that Munster have had, and immediately call for Foley to be sacked. In fact, that seems to be the predominant feeling out there. But it's wrong - Axel needs time, and it's pleasing to see that Munster Rugby are being patient with the 42-year-old. 

It doesn't matter what sport; all good teams have one common theme - continuity. Look at Sir Alex Ferguson, or Bill Belichick, or Steve Hansen. Teams improve if they are allowed to develop and understand a coach's methods. But the current pressures in sport rarely allow manager or coaches time to have an impact. You see the same bad teams change coaches and players over and over again, without success.

Yes, Munster are struggling - but there are a million and one reasons for why that could be happening. Let's eliminate the easy excuse that the French and English clubs are growing thanks to significantly bigger budgets - because that hasn't stopped Munster from competing before.

Squad Depth

anthony foley munster


There is a World Cup hangover. It means that the entire season is condensed, and teams are forced to utilise much more of their squad than they are comfortable with. This means players that aren't of suitable quality are thrust into action before they are ready. Maybe in time, but not now. Munster don't have the squad depth that they used to - and these players that are being called upon aren't good enough, yet. The only reason they've been able to survive these periods before is that when they've been forced to play youngsters, they've been able to compliment them with leadership figures like Paul O'Connell or Anthony Foley to help them through.


But that leadership isn't in the Munster team at the moment. The departure of Paul O'Connell, and the long term injury to captain Peter O'Mahony have left a huge hole in Munster's leadership group. CJ Stander can't do it all by himself - even though it seems like he's been trying to. Without help, Munster will come undone against the bigger teams.

Team Chemistry

anthony foley munster


I think it's also fair to say that Munster's best XV on paper has never played together. Peter O'Mahony and Tommy O'Donnell have never played with Francis Saili or Mark Chisholm. Saili has played seven games for his new team, with three different centre partners. Sunday's return game against Leicester will be the first time he'll be playing with the same centre partner for the second week in a row. That's not enough time to build up enough of an understanding with a centre partner to effectively carry out a game plan.

Likewise in the second row, Munster's three main locks - Mark Chisholm, Donnacha Ryan, and Dave Foley haven't played much with each other. Foley only broke into the team because of Ryan's horrendous run with injuries. Then there's high profile import Tyler Bleyendaal who has impressed - but has only been able to play in five games.

Add in the disruption caused by the World Cup, and Munster's 3rd place in the Pro 12 actually looks impressive.


Foley needs to be given more time - we saw at the end of last season what can happen when he's given an extended period of time with his players. That was never going to be given to him between the World Cup and Christmas, and no coach should ever be judged on that period.

Gut decisions and reaction don't turn out well, let Foley see out his contract - we shouldn't judge him until he gets his best team out, brings through some young players (which he's been good at), and will grind out results.



See Also: Munster Fan Reaction News Of Anthony Foley's Contract Extension Has Been Incredibly Negative

Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

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