It's the easiest thing in the world to blame a coach for a team's failings. That's probably why Anthony Foley is getting so much flak during Munster's horrendous run of form - but there are more problems in the province than the head coach. The form of the players, and quality of the squad is something that Foley can't be blamed for. After all, he took the same team to the Pro 12 final last May.
Here are five things that are more wrong with Munster than Anthony Foley as head coach.
The biggest problem in Munster is the lack of leadership being shown. CJ Stander is the only player standing up, and he's not a leader in the mould of an inspirational Paul O'Connell. Stander is a lead by example captain, and while that's very useful in a team, he needs help. He needs the likes of Simon Zebo, Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan, and Ian Keatley to step up and take some responsbility. But through injuries and a lack of form that hasn't happened.
Peter O'Mahony returning will help, as has Tommy O'Donnell's return - but Munster need more leaders in the team, that's just emphasising the loss of one O'Connell.
The most striking aspect of Munster's play is how blunt their attack looks. The backline doesn't seem to have any co-ordination about it, and is relying on individualism to spot gaps and make breaks. The times when decoy runners are employed are when Munster start to threaten, but at the moment they are too easy to defend.
The talent is there to be able to have an attacking backline with Scannell, Saili, Conway, Zebo, and Earls should be looking as dangerous as they did this time last season.
Foley needs more from his backs coach - Brian Walsh.
Losing the likes of Peter O'Mahony and Tommy O'Donnell for such a long period of time sucks. But it's the other niggles that have stopped players from getting into a rhythm that doesn't get noticed as much. Conor Murray's hip has been giving him trouble, James Cronin is out after shining this season, while Donnacha Ryan, Earls, Bleyendaal, and Dave Foley have all spent time on the physio's table. It's disruptive, and while not an excuse, is certainly a factor.
Losing three players from the starting XV in the first 30 minutes where they looked good against Stade can't have helped.
When so many players are unavailable at various points, then you need the second stringers and youngsters to step up, and they very clearly haven't. The gulf in class behind Conor Murray at scrumhalf is humongous, and when Mario Sagario isn't trusted to come off the bench to replace an injured BJ Botha you wonder why he was signed in the first place. There are some bright spots - Jack O'Donoghue and Rory Scannell are two youngsters who have stepped up - but there aren't too many other young players showing why they should be playing week in and week out like at the other three provinces.
The tackling and effort in the second half against Stade Francais was appalling. Munster missed 23 tackles in the game - which is unacceptable. That's the main reason for Alan Quinlan's gripes, and why the defeat was so bad. Players flapped at tackles, allowing Stade to score some of the easiest tries they will ever be gifted. Why they tackled so badly is beyond me, maybe they aren't playing for the coach, or maybe it's that players who struggled in defence previously rediscovered their bad habits.
See Also: CJ Stander Gave A Despondently Honest Interview After Munster Crumbled Against Stade Francais
Photo Credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE