10 Dec, 12:55
Munster A face Plymouth Albion at Waterford's Regional Sports Centre this Friday in the British and Irish Cup (ko 7:30pm).
The last time they met, Australia were comfortable 55-19 winners in Thomond Park, a Munster team captained by current Munster Squad Advisor Mick Galwey and coached by Jerry Holland, Munster team manager for both their Heineken Cup triumphs. In fact all Munster's wins have come in Musgrave Park, they'v lost and drawn on the two occasions the games have been played in Limerick.
In his match report in the Irish Times, Edmund Van Esbeck reporting said Munster succumbed to the, "awesome brilliance of the tourists as they scored nine tries, some beautifully created and splendidly executed."
Van Esbeck continued, " theirs was an awesome demonstration of forward power, superb teamwork, backline flair, pace and perception, that will live long in the memories of those who witnessed it.
Well one of those who witnessed it up close and personal was Killian Keane and when asked some fourteen years later for his thoughts on the game, honestly admits that he's, "tried hard to erase everything about that game from my memory."
That desire may have been inspired by the comments of one journalist, Limerick based, who opined afterwards that, after such an abject display, the Munster players, should have returned their match fee (200 pounds).
However, Van Esbeck pleaded a positive picture of Keane's performance that day. " In reality it was only the place kicking of out-half Killian Keane which kept Munster in touch. It was fitting too that he scored Munster's only try for he was, by some way, their best player and one of the few to emerge from from this encounter with their reputation enhanced."
Pressed for his abiding memory he says, "I suppose what strikes me is how much the game has changed since then." he says on the end of a mobile phone (hands-free of course) as he travels to Belfield to coach UCD.
"Back then, analysis involved meself and Holl (Jerry Holland) going through their team, name by name, until we pinpointed one we didn't know. It was a full back we'd never heard of so we de decided we'd pepper him with high ball.
"The first Garryowen he takes and zig zags his way about 60 metres before he was stopped and after he'd dealt with the10th that plan went out the window.
" If we didn't know who he was before the game, we did after. His name was Stephen Larkham." Keane says almost ruefully.
The Aussies had lost a bad tempered affair four years previously in Musgrave Park and Keane accepts there was a question of payback in '96.
"No question at all about that." he says immediately. "There was a lot of hype in the lead up. A lot about the '92 game.
"Claw was just back from his suspension - back from one of his many suspensions - so there was a bit a bit of a buzz about the place.
"But yes, they came down to do a job on us and by God they did that.
"Look, they had a fabulous backline," he says admiringly. " Campese on one wing, Ben Tune I think on the other. Jason Little and Richard Tombs in the centre, great rugby players.
"But they were fabulous tourists as well. Great sportsmen. They got stuck in on the field and afterwards on the night out as well.
"I remember after the game Pat Howard came into our dressing with his gear for me. I was delighted." Keane remembers although still not sure of the legality of giving the Aussie 10 his Munster gear. "Yeh, not sure it that was allowed. I think I owe the Munster Branch 50 quid for that."
Keane went on to play for Munster for another seven seasons winning a Celtic League medal in 2003 and with 118 points in 26 Heineken Cup appearances, he'd be entitled to throw a hissy fit if the Branch come looking for that 50 spot.