Stephen Larkham On The Key Area Munster Need To Improve On This Season
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We sat down with new Munster coach Stephen Larkham yesterday to discuss his new role at the province and what he hopes to bring to the table this season in a wide ranging chat that should excite Munster fans.
The former Brumbies and Australia coach landed in Limerick last week and has already been hard at it with the squad, as he looks to make his mark and bring some fresh and innovative attack to the Irish side.
But what does he think of the platform he has to work from? Well he’s pretty impressed. Munster had an excellent try-scoring record last season and are continuously improving, but he has highlighted a few areas he thinks could do with some polishing.
Most important is Munster’s ability to to create more line-breaks, something that was also touched on by the rest of the coaching staff in an informal conversation we had beforehand. Individual footwork, something Larkham was famous for in his playing days, is an area that Munster will look to get better at.
“If you look at the attack last year, it’s a pretty good record. I think we averaged seven tries per game in Cork and maybe 26 points a game was our average over the two competitions, so it’s a pretty good record.” Larkham said
“But there’s little bit of detail listening to the presentation before. Probably, we didn’t create enough line-breaks. We didn’t beat enough players one-on-one. So, we’re looking at a bit of that detail at the moment.”
“We want to maintain what we’ve had over the last couple of years and what we’ve been working towards.”
“Last year was probably a step up in terms of attack, so maintaining that and then putting a bit of detail around other areas of the attack.”
As for the players he has to work with, Larkham is looking forward to getting Munster’s Irish internationals back after the World Cup – which he jokingly said might be sooner rather that later after Saturday’s performance against England!
“Well, it’s an Irish backline. If you look at the form of Ireland on Saturday, maybe they won’t be away too long! Maybe they’ll be back early! But hopefully they’re there for a fair period and Ireland actually do okay.
“Conor (Murray), Joey (Carbery), Chris (Farrell), Andy (Conway), Keith (Earls) and Mike (Haley), then add the other guys who are here in the set-up and it’s a pretty impressive backline.”
“Go through the forwards, I don’t know all their names at the moment, still getting my head around that. I’m pretty good with the backline as I’ve spent time with them but not so good on the forwards.”
“At the top level, when we get those players back, we’ve got a really competitive team that can beat any other team in the competition.”
“In the meantime, some of the results last year with guys who were probably new to the set-up, fantastic results, so there’s good depth here as well. At the moment, we’re training with 45 guys and we haven’t got the internationals back yet.”
Larkham also admitted that he didn’t respect the northern hemisphere enough as a player but is learning to respect it better since becoming a coach.
“I didn’t respect the northern hemisphere teams enough, nor the competition up here enough. Obviously, so engrossed with the Tri Nations, Super Rugby and the Bledisloe Cup. My biggest rival growing up was the All Blacks so it was all about beating the All Blacks.”
“But there’s a whole other world over here if I look at the game at the weekend. It was amazing to watch the raw power of England and the way Ireland battled through that game.”
“There’s some amazing rugby being played up here in tough conditions. You got to respect it. As a player, I didn’t respect it enough. Now, as a coach, I’m learning to respect it better.”