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Why Munster Could Win the 2020/21 PRO14 – From a Leinster Fan

| July 22, 2020 3:02 am PDT
Munster 2020/21 PRO14 Championship

Once the most dominant team in Ireland, the Munster boys have had little to celebrate in recent years. Even worse, they have watched on with teeth clenched as their bitter provincial rivals, Leinster, eclipsed them as the island’s premier rugby outfit. 

But could a resurgence be on the cards for the Limerick-based province? There are plenty of rugby betting sites that seem to think they have a chance. So is it time for the glory-hunting Munster boys to find their ways back from the shadows? I wonder how genuine supporters would feel about that?

But seriously, any sports fan around long enough knows that the good days can’t last forever. And kudos to the ones that do stick around. They are the ones that understand the two-sided nature of a coin — on the flip side, when the skies do turn grey over the front of success, it doesn’t mean the sun has departed for good. 

As an Irish native, you soon get used to unemphatic summers and bitterly cold winters. And it’s fair to say that every Irish rugby fan has suffered their fair share of both over the years. But even a relentless cycle of overcast skies is no match for the faith in the air on a pulsating night at Thomond Park — especially when the scoreboard keeps ticking over.

Well, the good news for Munster fans is that, while their seats in the congregation of the temple of Thomond might remain empty for the foreseeable, the addition of shiny new silverware to the old trophy room is a significant possibility. 

And while I’m not suggesting there will be a litany of sunny days in Limerick on the way, a couple of trophies would make things look a lot brighter, wouldn’t they? Here’s why Munster could win the 2020/21 PRO14 Championship.

Speaking of Sunshine and Trophies

As long as I’m keeping this metaphor going like a Galápagos tortoise on life support, let’s start with two of Munster’s new additions — 2019 South African World Cup winners Damian de Allende and R. G. Snyman.

Both men played vital roles in their country’s success in Japan last autumn, with Snyman playing all seven of the Springbok’s games in the tournament and de Allende missing just one under coach Rassie Erasmus (a former Munster head coach).

The newbies join up with incumbent Munster boss Johann van Graan — as well as Keynan Knox, Chris Cloete, and South African born CJ Stander — to give the team a real Springbok flavor.

These signings are huge coups for the province, especially coming with their world championship medals still sparkling around their necks. Their inclusions in the Munster first team will be effective from the outfit’s next game, which is Leinster vs. Munster on August 22. 

Will the new boys have an immediate impact? Well, that is hard to say. Both arrive on two-year contracts, so they will have plenty of time to prove themselves in Ireland. But players of this caliber would be certain to make a difference anywhere in the world. 

De Allende broke both Japanese and Welsh hearts en route to the final, scoring tries in both matches. His defensive work was also sublime, and Munster fans will be hoping that both sides of his sword are sharp in the red jersey. The 2015 South African Super Rugby Player of the Year could be integral to Munster’s resurgence.

Snyman’s man of the match efforts against Canada showed exactly what he is capable of. A traditional, solid South African lock, Snyman also has fantastic skills in the open and is a real menace around the park. 

How Much of a Boost Will These Players Be?

There is no doubt that this South African pair will make themselves known to fans from their first games in the red shirts. But let’s not forget the players that they will have around them. 

A good place to start would be the signing of English-born, Irish qualified Matt Gallagher from English Premiership Rugby champions, Saracens. Having touched briefly on the exodus of players from the club in my 2020/21 Saracens betting preview, it was always likely that Gallagher would be one of the players to move on. But still, this is a great signing for Munster. 

Gallagher can play at both fullback and wing, and at just 23, he could also be an asset to the Irish national team. He has 45 appearances under his belt for Saracens and was a U20s World Championship winner with England in 2016.

Gallagher will be competing for a starting position with established fullback Mike Haley, and with Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Darren Sweetnam, Liam Coombes, and Calvin Nash on the wings. Although it is likely that Gallagher will be seen as a fullback, first and foremost. 

It’s nailed on that DeAllende will form a monstrous center partnership with the excellent Chris Farrell, although Shane Daly, Dan Goggin, Alex McHenry, and Rory Scannell will all be pushing for starts at some point. 

Snyman and Tadhg Beirne could very well create the best lock partnership in the Northern Hemisphere, if not the world, when they play together. Of all the combinations in this team, Snyman and Beirne is the one I want to see most. 

Guys like Billy Holland, Jean Kleyn, and Fineen Wycherley will be aiming to make their presence felt. 

Rekindling Past Glories?

I remember sitting in what is now the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on an overcast day in May 2006. Munster was playing Biarritz in the final, and the droves of red-clad Irishmen and women surrounded the Basques in both color and song.

That day, Munster put years of torturous hurt and gut-wrenching near-misses behind them to win the Heineken Cup 23-19. Two years later, on a much sunnier day in the same city, I took off from a wedding reception to watch them beat French giants Toulouse 16-13 to win their second title in two years.

To Munster fans, it seemed as though the good times would never end. The first Irish team to achieve the feat, they sure pushed it in the faces of fans of other provinces, most notably my own, Leinster. 

Well, us Leinster fans won the following year, in 2009, beating them in the final to take the crown as Ireland, and Europe’s premier rugby outfit. Then, Leinster won two of the next three tournaments to really put the boot in.

A fourth European Cup was added in 2018 in the Spanish Basque city of Bilbao, and it’s safe to say that there would have been few supporters wearing red in the likes of Limerick, Clare, or Cork that would have been too happy for us. 

Well, as a proud Leinster fan, I’ll tell you this — those same Munster supporters will remember the bitterness of seeing their rivals outshine them, and they will be certain that their day will come. 

Looking Ahead to the 2021/22 Season

Can Munster win the PRO14 this season? Absolutely. But in order to do so, they will need all three of these guys to come in and click faster than the trigger on an AR-15. 

While it would be foolish to write off their chances right now, giving the southern province time to click ahead of next season is a better idea. As things stand, they are the one team in the PRO14 that can stand up to the might of Leinster. Perhaps their sights will be aimed even higher than that?

As for Silverware, this team deserves to be seen as very dangerous. If the likes of those highlighted above can stand up and be counted — and Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Joey Carberry, and others can find the top of their game — we could be looking at a real contender for both the PRO14 and European Champions Cup next season. 

While it’s great for the Irish game to see Munster finding their way back to being serious contenders, as a Leinster fan, it’s time to start taking them seriously again.

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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