Earls injury reduces Mannix's options
Tellingly, perhaps, Mannix extolled O’Gara’s first-half performance in the Aviva Stadium last Saturday and while making reference to the discussion around O’Gara’s missed tackle in the build-up to Brian O’Driscoll’s try, the Munster backs coach also admitted: “If I judge a guy by one mistake, then I’m a fool.
“I’m clear in my mind but whether I have it right is another issue,” he added in relation to the composition of the backline on a grey, foggy and damp day at their base in the Cork Institute of Technology. “What great questions to have, though, isn’t it? It’s good we can have this healthy competition at 10, in midfield and the outside backs. We have younger guys coming through and this is where we need to get Munster to. Having healthy competition across the board. There are going to be highs and dips, we’re fully aware of that,” he admitted of their overall form. “There’s got to be patience. I’m very happy with the direction and where we’re at today compared to the start of the season. I’m very positive.”
Mannix joined Munster after a four-and-a-half year sojourn as Racing assistant/backs coach and admitted: “I’m surprised at the intensity of the guys. In France, I’d have to drag the guys out to training and talk to them about recovery and everything. That’s not the case here. At Racing, the foreigners had to create their own culture and they’ve really pulled the French players, who intrinsically have a closed culture, out of their shells. There’s only one Paris player there now. Imagine that at Munster? They pull their energies from within and the fact that it’s so multi-cultural. It’s a great environment for the players.”
Racing this week confirmed that the new coaching regime under Gonzala Quesada, which was installed midway through last season after an internal revolt, is making way at the end of the season for the Castres coaching team of Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit.
“It’s an odd one,” Mannix admitted dryly. “I can understand the logic. The talk has been going on since last season, an ongoing drama. The French love their dramas. It’s something that gave me a great attachment. From one day to the next, you never knew what you were going to get. Yet again, one week out from the Heineken Cup, everything gets thrown up in the air. I expect a strong reaction and concentration from players. They won’t be too bothered about it. It’s part of French rugby and the Top 14 and it certainly makes it more interesting.”