Munster scrum strengthened by home-grown props
Rob Penney stresses the days of Munster being considered mere survivors come scrum time are over
Munster coach Rob Penney with James Cronin during training. “Jimmy is making great progress. He is a mobile, athletic young man with a massive motor and a great deal of desire,” says Penney. Photograph: Inpho
Gone are the days down Munster way when the scrum call “Titanic” is a viable option. What did the great ocean liner do? Sank to the sea bed. The referee, frazzled by the Limerick crowd, was regularly duped into awarding a home penalty.
But Munster, the great survivors of European rugby, embark on their maiden voyage without Ronan O’Gara at the helm in Edinburgh on Saturday. At least a new generation of anchors are not expected to be bobbing their heads above the surface.
Leinster’s Martin Moore waded into the derby at Thomond Park last weekend for Mike Ross, following Munster’s James Cronin who had just planted the established Ireland tighthead with a ferocious tackle. Big, young Irish bred props.
Neither Moore nor Cronin will start this weekend at Liberty Stadium or Murrayfield but their progression is proof the IRFU plan to significantly reduce the number of foreign imports clogging up the frontrow pathway. BJ Botha and John Afoa are the last two on Irish provincial books as Nathan White will be assimilated via residency next year.
“With Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne you got two really classy looseheads,” said Munster coach Rob Penney of Cronin’s emergence in the wake of Marcus Horan’s retirement. “Jimmy is making great progress. He is a mobile, athletic young man with a massive motor and a great deal of desire.
“The other two have played international rugby already and James is heading that way. The challenge for him is to be consistent. Keep banging on the door.”
It’s accepted in the Munster camp they dominated the Leinster scrum during their 19-15 victory. Granted, Moore and Jack McGrath replaced the incumbent Irish duo of Healy and Ross for the last quarter but Penney was keen to stress the days of Munster being considered mere survivors come scrum time are over. It is a weapon and they intend to use it.
“The scrum is not one component that makes it work, it is a combination of all eight working together,” he said. “Jeez, when you look at the scrum and what the boys were able to do; I just thought they stuck to their task and finished well over the top of Leinster.
“When you slow the clips there is a bit of murmurings up north that they were disappointed the way it was refereed but, goodness, it would be great to sit down with Feeky (Greg Feek) and Matt (O’Connor) to discuss the scrums because I’ve got an entirely different image in my mind. I thought we were really good . . .and we had them under pressure and we got the benefit of that.”
This weekend will reveal more about how Irish provincial scrums have adapted to the new engagement laws. Botha, for one, has had little problem adjusting despite an injury disrupted opening to his season.
“Each ref is going to ref it differently,” said the 25-times capped Springbok. “We are putting in our work behind the scenes.” And what about young bulls like John Ryan, Cronin, Archer and Kilcoyne queuing up behind? “We rub off each other. As a frontrow we take a lot of pressure off each other. It is a heated position. But I’m still a player and still want to play at the highest level.”