Munster Won’t Win A European Title Until They Address This One Key Problem

Number 10.

Munster once again crashed out of Europe at the semi-final stages on Sunday – for the sixth time in-a-row since winning the competition back in 2008.

In the end just five points separated the two sides with Racing emerging 27-22 victors, but in truth the game was over with just over 20 minutes on the clock.

If you want to overstate it a little – the game was over even before that, when Ian Keatley made a mess of a nonsensical drop goal attempt, after turning down a chance at the posts just minutes earlier.

Truth is Munster will never reach the dizzy heights of 2006 and 2008 until they sort out one problem – a top class number 10. Now before I go any further – this is not an attack on Ian Keatley, nor is it on JJ Hanrahan or Tyler Bleyendaal. All three are very good players, but very good simply doesn’t cut it in that particular position if you want to be crowned champions of Europe.

A lot of people have suggested that Munster need to add more ‘quality’ and inject some ‘firepower’ into their current squad, but I disagree. Munster have an excellent squad, with some fantastic players.

Just look at Leinster’s starting line-up from Saturday. Are you telling me Conor Murray wouldn’t start ahead of Gibson-Park? Stander over Murphy? Earls over McFadden? Kleyn over Toner? Munster have plenty of firepower and quality.

What Munster don’t have is a Johnny Sexton.

Look at the last five European Cup winners – Toulon x3, Saracens x2.

Who was the key player for Toulon in two of their three triumphs? Jonny Wilkinson. (Giteau in the other)

Who was the key player for Saracens in their two triumphs? Owen Farrell.

Who was the key player in two of Leinster’s three triumphs before that? Johnny Sexton (Contepomi in the other)

Who was the key player in both of Munster’s triumphs? Ronan O’Gara.

And what about the international stage?

Who was the key player in Ireland’s Grand Slam win this year, saving them on the opening day? Johnny Sexton.

Who was New Zealand’s key player when they won the 2015 Rugby World Cup? Dan Carter.

Who won England a Rugby World Cup in 2003? Jonny Wilkinson.

Are we beginning to see a bit of a pattern?

It’s next to impossible to be successful at the very top of rugby without a world-class ten. Simple as. Ian Keatley is a very good ten. Tyler Bleyendaal has showed he can be a very good ten. JJ Hanrahan could potentially be a very good ten.

But unfortunately very good doesn’t cut the mustard as a ten if you want to be the very best.

You don’t need world class players in every position to be successful. Look at Leinster’s current team. Are all of their current players world class? No a lot of them are just ‘very good’ rugby players.

When Munster won in 06 or 08 did they have a team of ‘world class’ players? Not even close. But they had Ronan O’Gara. Just as Leinster have Johnny Sexton, and Saracens have Owen Farrell.

And New Zealand had Dan Carter, and now Beauden Barrett.

And England had Jonny Wilkinson.

Munster may not have the depth the likes of Leinster have, but that’s not something to cry about. A fully fit Munster squad is more than capable of winning a Champions Cup.

If they sort out their problems at ten…

Let me leave you with Munster’s potential starting line-up for next season… with a special guest at 10.

Could this team win the Champions Cup? You’re damn right it could.

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