MUNSTER Academy manager Peter Malone says Munster’s success in scooping both the U-20 and U-19 interprovincial titles shows the province is now capable of going ‘toe-to-toe’ with any of its rivals.
Munster’s title success at U-20 level was the province’s first in 12 years since the competition was changed from U-21 level. In all, Munster won 9 of 11 under-age interpro games this season when both the U-18 Clubs and U-18 Schools fixtures are added with the U-19 and U-20 wins.
Munster elite player development manager, Malone said: “The last time we won the top end inter-pro by the U-21s was when Brendan O’Connor was captain in 2003. Stephen Keogh was the last captain to win it before that.
“It is a nice boost that we are competitive and performing at that level. The trophy is a nice add-on to it.
“Four or five years ago we just weren’t competitive at that level and a lot of work has gone in over the past few years to make sure guys are at a better level strength and conditioning wise and rugby wise. We have had the Munster Talent Camp at Rockwell where a lot of work has gone in and this year we have worked out of Castletroy College and UCC for the U-19s and U-20s group. The lads have gone through a good programme.
“I think we are now at a level where, you can see from the results, we are competing toe to toe with all the provinces. This year we came out on top of the other provinces at U-19 and U-20 level.
“It is very positive and good reward for the players who are playing and for the coaches and staff who are working hard.”
All of Munster representatives in the Junior World Rugby Championships in June were over-age for the U-20 interprovincial campaign.
Malone said the number of Munster players who get selected on an Irish U-20s squads for the 6 Nations and Junior World Championships is not the only benchmark for judging how the players are developing.
“It is not the only benchmark. I think you need to be careful with looking at one specific year. Certainly last year, there were only one or two Munster players in a 6 Nations U-20s squad.
“That was disappointing for us. We would have felt there were a few close calls. Then we finished up with five Munster Academy players going to the Junior World Championships eventually.
“The year before we had nine Munster players going to the Junior World Cup. It’s a bit cyclical. Sometimes you get a good year. Overall, I think the number have come up in general over the past four or five years. Sometimes you get a year with two selected and sometimes with nine. I would say we are somewhere in between the average there of five to seven players in an Irish squad. That is roughly the target we would be looking for. It would be roughly 25-30% of the squad. Hopefully the inter-pro performances will put more guys in the mix there for selection.”
Munster’s Path to U-20 Glory
Ulster 17 Munster 18
Munster 22, Leinster 8
Connacht 23 Munster 24
Munster’s Path to U-19 Glory
Ulster 13 Munster 17
Munster 26 Leinster 18
Connacht 19 Munster 49