Calvin Nash flourishing in Munster’s more high-tempo, ball-in-hand game

The 25-year-old product of Crescent College and Young Munster is having his most productive season yet

It is a particularly impressive reflection on a player’s character when he stands out in a losing cause. As the Glasgow tries mounted last week, Calvin Nash was the one player who kept lifting the home crowd with his slaloming runs as he continuously took the game to the Warriors.

In all, the Munster winger led the way for most defenders beaten, seven, and metres, 111 from nine carries, before he was fittingly rewarded with Munster’s bonus point try in the 78th minute with a close-range finish from Craig Casey’s pick-out.

Honourable mention goes to John Hodnett too, for when the going was toughest, these two got going.

Nash says his attitude stems largely from the coaching staff.


“Well to be honest, it’s kind of coached into us about staying in the moment all the time and, look, it obviously was quite frustrating, and as a team it was generally frustrating that every time we made a mistake Glasgow capitalised on it.

“But that’s what we try to focus on, staying in the moment, and that’s what we’ll try to bring in this week as well,” adds Nash in advance of tomorrow’s Heineken Champions Cup last-16 tie against the Sharks in Kings Park, Durban (kick-off 1.30pm local time/12.30pm Irish, live on BT Sport).

Nash has flourished under Graham Rowntree, Mike Prendergast and Denis Leamy, having been confined to bit parts under the previous coaching ticket.

“It’s a very positive environment as well which is obviously quite good. We did need a bit of a kick from last week but at the same time it’s all about development and as long as you’re giving it your all, and all of the coaches can see that, they’re quite happy to help you and keep driving you on.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air, really, with Prendy and Leams coming in and just the way that they coach, just their constant growth mindset.”

The 25-year-old product of Crescent College and Young Munster is having his most productive and prolific season yet for his province. Nash has already played more games (12) accumulated more minutes (860) and scored more tries (five) than in any of his previous half dozen seasons with Munster.

In addition to the backing of his coaches, Nash is also flourishing in Munster’s more high-tempo, ball-in-hand game.

“Yeah, I think it could be a bit of both, to be honest. Like, the attacking rugby, I’ve enjoyed it and it’s not as much fun chasing box kicks.

“As wingers with Prendy, we’re allowed to float around a lot more and get more involved, and Prendy has kind of helped me with my involvements in the game as well. That would have been a work on of mine since I was younger, just trying to get involved in the game in attack more; just offer up.”

His self-belief has also been strengthened by being called up for the Emerging Ireland tour in South Africa last September, starting and scoring against the Griquas, and also starting against the Cheetahs, before playing for the Ireland A side against the All Blacks XV at the RDS in November.

Being afforded more of a roving commission by Munster was also beneficial given how Andy Farrell likes his wingers to roam and have plenty of involvements.

“Yeah, it is similar. It’s not the old-fashioned way where you just get on the end of the pass and score, it’s showing up off of nine and 10 and there’s a lot of different places where a winger can actually fit in, in both the Irish way they play in attack and the way Prendy wants to attack as well.

“So, it’s nice having that freedom and just trying to impact the game that way.”

Nash had only played one Champions Cup before this campaign, against the Ospreys four seasons ago, but has played all four pool games to this point, and reckons experiencing the “massive shock factor” of the “crazily intense” first 15 minutes will stand to him.

Collectively, Munster are also grateful to welcome back Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray.

“It’s class having them back because they bring a different kind of outlook to the game that when you’re stuck in this environment. You kind of get laser focused on one thing but then when they come back it’s like, ‘oh, we can work on this’ or ‘we can fix this’.”

The stakes will increase for Nash’s second foray to South Africa this season, not only because it is a challenging knock-out Champions Cup tie, but due to him directly opposing Makazele Mapimpi, not only a World Cup winner but a World Cup final try scorer too.

You wonder what kind of mentality this prompts from him, ie fear, excitement, some of both?

“I don’t know, the fear hasn’t kicked in yet if there is going to be fear anyway. It should be exciting, you’re playing against one of the best players in the world and in European competition now with the South African teams coming in, there’s even better players involved.

“You should just be excited about the challenge and about what’s going to happen.”

While the heat and humidity will add to the challenge, the hard, fast track should be to his liking.

“Yeah, hopefully, I’ll get plenty of the ball. I might get it at top speed in the GPS. We’ll see, like,” he says, smiling.

As to which player has the top speed in the Munster squad at the moment, Nash smiles again.

“I think it could be Liam Coombes or Conor Phillips,” he concedes in reference to Gavin Coombes’ cousin and the Sevens flyer.

“I’m not actually sure to be honest. I’d be close to it, but we’ll give it to them though. I want to be modest!”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times