Amid the impending departures of Deccie and Axel, it's almost gone unnoticed that "S?amus" is on his way too. Jim Williams may not have been part of the Munster fabric for as long as their departing coach and former captain, but it's remarkable to think that despite not arriving until he was 32, Williams has ended up staying here for seven years. In his own inimitable way, first as a force of nature and captain on the pitch, then as an increasingly astute coach for three campaigns, he became part of the furniture too.
Alas, he is heading home next Wednesday, to start work as the Wallabies' new assistant/forwards coach the following Monday, June 2nd. His first challenge will be to help the Australian pack in their seasonal opener in Melbourne, against Ireland, on June 14th.
"You wouldn't believe it, would you? Of all the countries in the world that play rugby, it has to be Ireland," declares Williams in loud and not entirely mock despair, paraphrasing Bogey in Casablanca and smiling broadly, but clearly as annoyed as was Rick Blaine in encountering Sam by his piano in that particular gin joint.
"It's not right. It's not fair on me and it's not fair on them. I suppose I'll have to work my way through it."
He returns to what he calls "a clean slate and a new direction" in light of Australia undergoing significant change, from ARU personnel to a new coaching ticket under Robbie Deans and the retirements of stalwarts such as Stephen Larkham and George Gregan, not to mention the exodus of others in their prime.
"We're going to be light on the ground initially and there's going to be plenty of work with the guys that I've got there," he says.
Among ex-pat Aussies here in Ireland there's a palpable concern that Australian rugby, without the promised financial backing of the new government and with a failed attempt to provide a regional competition under its four Super 14 franchises, has hit a wall.
"Guys who have played 10 or 15, maybe 20, tests are looking to go overseas, so it's certainly going to be a difficult time for us," he agrees.
He cites the impending appointment of the former Springboks forward coach Gert Small to the Irish set-up as an example of how other countries no longer go native either, but agrees that having been at the cutting edge, a golden generation of coaches have also moved on, leading to an admittance that Australian rugby had become a little "insular".
Williams's return, along with the Waratahs' attempts to bring Michael Cheika home, highlights the ARU's desire to rectify that.
Williams has assuredly benefited from exposure to the greater intensity of the setpieces and forward play from his three seasons cutting his coaching teeth at Munster, not to mention his four as a player in the Northern Hemisphere.
"It's difficult to put into words what I'm leaving behind. It's a whole lifestyle. It certainly changed me as a player. It moulded me as a coach and changed my outlook on life completely, which is great.
"That's why you come overseas, to get that different aspect on life and different style; not to try to bring your style of rugby over, just bring parts of it in, and row in with what they're doing. That's what I've done and I've enjoyed every minute of it."
Injured on arrival, he can still vividly recall witnessing his first day of training, in summer 2001.
"I'll never forget it. Claw punching blokes, Quinny punching blokes, Dessie and Claw going at each other, and they're brothers! I was sitting beside David Wallace and saying, 'I don't know what the hell I've done here.' I rang the agent and said, 'I don't know what I'm doing here - these guys beat the crap out of each other as much as they beat the opposition up.'
"But it's like I said . . . just the intensity and the competitiveness they bring, and it's great to be a part of that set-up."
There were heartbreaks along the way, losing the 2002 final in Cardiff, and narrow knock-out defeats in the three subsequent years - before joy at last in his first season as coach - and the many highs in games such as those against Gloucester and Sale.
"Plenty of both," he says of the highs and lows. "It's different, but they (playing and coaching) both give their rewards. It's a natural progression from playing. You still miss it a bit but I'm enjoying it just as much."
He'll miss what he describes as the whole package. "It's the supporters, it's the set-up, it's the players, it's the attitude they've got towards games. It's very one-in, all-in; no-one's better than anyone else, but they're all great individual players. They believe in each other and they and the fans have a great mutual respect."
He cites the way those at the World Cup could seamlessly slip back into the Munster way and refocus - along with Leinster's achievement in winning the Magners League in what was an underachieving international season. The stand-out, he says, was "the magnificent effort by the boys in the second half in Clermont to get a bonus point. That got us out of that pool."
The presence of more gamebreakers at Munster has injected confidence though he also believes the key to Toulouse's French renaissance is simply that they are enjoying their rugby again: "Nothing fazes them. They've won it before, they've been away, they've played Munster before. It's just going to be whoever makes less mistakes, gets into field position and takes their points, because you need something when you get down there (in opposition territory). And make sure your defence is rock solid.
"They've got the all-round game. Scrum, lineout, they've got backs, they can pick and drive, they've got runners who can offload before contact. They're certainly a complete team."
Whatever happens tomorrow, there is a distinct end-of-era feeling in the air: "Yes, there is, but it's one of those things that's got to happen. Life rolls on. It is difficult us all leaving at once, but knowing the Munster set-up and the management of the players, they'll ensure that they'll still have some stability there."
He has high hopes for young backrowers such as Tony O'Donnell and Billy Holland, "but there might be a call for an outsider to come in, to help influence them and guide them through, but certainly they've got the quality of player there."
The one improvement he'd like to see in the Munster set-up is the production line from the academy, especially of backs.
"I'd like to see more home-grown players coming through . . . The Barry Murphys and Keith Earlses, these type of guys. They've got the quality of player (in the senior team) at the moment, and a good set-up below us, but I'd like to see them manage their academy players and I'd like to see a few more home-grown centres and backs, especially from Munster - and not so much from Leinster," he smiles.
"But they need to keep rolling those backs out with the quality of forwards they have, because that's what they need to do if they want to evolve - generate quality players from within."
In the heel of the hunt though, he remains confident the good ship Munster will be steered in the right direction: "I'm not worried about Munster in the future at all. I never am. They know what's right for Munster and I certainly think they'll be okay and they'll do well in Europe. I think the Munster management will have things in place."
(Reproduced courtesy of The Irish Times).