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Who’d Want His Job

7th April 2003 By Munster Rugby

Who’d Want His Job

When Alan Gaffney and his team sit down in front of the press on Tuesday for the official pre quarter final press conference, the media expecting to hear the Munster starting 15, may be disappointed.

When Alan Gaffney and his team sit down in front of the press on Tuesday for the official pre quarter final press conference, the media expecting to hear the Munster starting 15, may be disappointed.

When Alan Gaffney and his Munster management sit down in front of the assembled press on Tuesday for the official pre quarter final press conference, the media expecting to hear their Munster starting fifteen will be disappointed.

Gaffney and Co will name a squad and the likelihood is that the actual 22 to face Leicester will not be selected before Friday at the earliest. This is not a ploy to confuse or keep Leicester guessing. The fact is that when Gaffney, Brian Hickey and Jerry Holland sit down to pick their side there will be several positions that will generate plenty of areas that will warrant their very precise consideration. This will be the strongest squad they will have had at their disposal all year and in some areas the calls will be extremely tight.

From the selectors point of view their immediate task is to come up with the combination that will give Munster the best possible chance of beating Leicester. But from a players point of view there is even more to it than that. This is a World Cup year and as professional footballers they will want to be on the airplane taking the Irish squad to Australia and where better to showcase our credentials than at Welford Road against the best club side in the Northern Hemisphere. So who will get the nod to pull on the famous Munster red.

Easier first perhaps to name the shoo-ins. The half-backs will be Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara, no debate.

No debate about the front-row. Marcus Horan, Frank Sheahan and John The Bull Hayes.

The back-row picks itself, captain Jim Williams, Alan Quinlan and the player with the most Heineken Cup caps, the inspirational Anthony Foley.

And then the debate begins. In the pack the second row options are Mick O’Driscoll and Donncha O’Callaghan the paring that tore the heart out of Gloucester. But Paul O’Connell has returned to cloud the issue and it’s been him and O’Callghan who have started against Connacht and Scottish Borders.

In the backs the picture is even more difficult. Jeremy Staunton or Dominic Crotty at full-back. It’s two from three on the wings, the try-scorers from the Gloucester game, John Kelly and Mossie Lawlor and one Anthony Horgan who is back from injury and looking sharp. This could be one of the tightest and the toughest calls. Lawlor has been in sparkling form for Munster since coming into the side ironically for Horgan – but the Cork Con player was the man in possession and whether or not it’s an indicator, but Horgan started against Connacht last Friday.

On then to the centre, and another two from three permutation – Jason Holland, Rob Henderson and Mike Mullins. It’s probably more a question of one from two because it would be hard to see anyone other than Mike Mullins starting in the number 13 jersey. So it’ll either be Jason Holland or Rob Henderson who will be handed the number 12, the Lion versus the lion-hearted. Again on of those unenviable decision that is part and parcel of a coach’s life and one that is never easy as Gaffney readily admits.

"It has to be the hardest part of this job, when you have to tell a player he’s not starting. Well actually it’s not, the hardest part is when you have to tell a player he’s not even in the starting squad. That’s the really tough part. They all want to play, to be involved and they’re all good enough. But what we have to do is come up with the best combination for a particular game. We owe that much to our supporters and to the squad itself."

We played 40 minutes of very good rugby against Perpignan we were down a couple of points and had the advantage of a very strong wind in the second half but unfortunately we then played the worst 40 minutes we’d played all year. So we walked away from that game a bit disillusioned and disconsolate but credit to the boys they picked themselves over the next few days took on Gloucester and produced a very good performance.

The game against Leicester is a great challenge it’s a game the boys are looking forward to. Leicester may not have performed as well as normally in the Premiership this year but when you look at their side you understand they are very very strong. They have four of the starting eight from the English pack another on the bench and then there’s Josh Kronfeld, Darren Garforth and Martin Corry, so it’s a very strong side. Healy is back, so we know the challenge we have but it’s one we’re looking forward to with relish.

The motivation is there for Munster, they’ve put the disappointment and the events of last year’s final behind them and they realise the challenge in playing a side of Leicester’s quality. We’ve got to beat the best to prove you’re number one in Europe it’s a building block process, this is stage one and we’ll go over there and give it our best shot.


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