MUNSTER coach Anthony Foley has stood by his decision to replace out-half Johnny Holland after 56 minutes of Saturday’s night’s Guinness Pro12 defeat to Leinster despite his impressive showing.
Foley was rewarded by his bold call to start Holland ahead of the vastly more experienced Ian Keatley for the derby clash as the 24-year-old turned in an impressive display.
However, the Munster coach’s decision to replace Holland with Keatley close to the hour mark was a major talking point for the province’s fans in the wake of their hugely frustrating 16-13 defeat at the Aviva Stadium.
The defeat has seen Munster slip to sixth place in the table in the battle to secure European Champions Cup and Guinness Pro12 play-off places.
Foley said: “Johnny (Holland) was doing very well. I think it was 60 minutes into the game and we had a very experienced international out-half on the bench that has led us for the vast majority of the season.
“With a game as tight as that, you don’t want to be putting on your 10 with five or ten minutes to go; you want to be making that change a small bit earlier.
“Keats got us into a position to win the game, you know? Johnny had done really well up to that point, he’s obviously a very up-and-coming, promising player and he’s at the start of his career I’d imagine.
“We had a very experienced 10 on the bench and it was important that we gave him an opportunity to get into the game and get us into a position to win it, which he did. Unfortunately we didn’t do it.
“It’s important that we felt it was a game we could put him (Johnny Holland in from the start) in there. I think it was the right decision. I thought he controlled it at times well. He wasn’t flawless, he made a couple of errors out there, but who didn’t?
“He’s got great character and we would have seen that when he was rehabbing the horrendous hamstring injury he got last season. He’s a player that we like coming through, he’s going to be a good foil for Keats and himself to battle it out for the remainder of the season.”