Jason Jenkins debut and John Hodnett return gives Munster more options

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree praises hard work as squad set to face Scarlets

Jason Jenkins at Munster Rugby squad training  in UL, Limerick on Wednesday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jason Jenkins at Munster Rugby squad training in UL, Limerick on Wednesday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Munster’s options in personnel terms will increase further following confirmation that summer signing Jason Jenkins could make his debut for the province in Sunday’s United Rugby Championship match against the Scarlets while the hugely promising John Hodnett returned to action following a long-term Achilles tendon injury in the UCC colours last weekend.

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree admitted that he was impressed by Jenkins’s work in training. “He plays in different positions in the back five of the scrum – flexible, a good lineout forward. He’s big and will give us some good ballast around that set-piece. He’s got good footballing skills as well. I’ve been impressed with him.”

The treatment room has emptied out a little of late, with RG Snyman’s try-scoring cameo on the last day a tiny reminder of the quality that the Springbok brings as he continues to compile match minutes. Given his long layoff, Rowntree confirmed that they would be judicious “in increasing his game time”.

Gavin Coombes offered a microcosm of Munster’s performance against the Stormers: a little out of kilter in the first half before recalibrating and producing a superb second 40 minutes in which he was the principal catalyst in turning a 15-7 deficit into a victory.

Diligent

Rowntree said: “He’s [Coombes] worked on his game considerably; he’s got himself a lot fitter. He’s very diligent, one of the last ones off the training field. I’m delighted for Gav, he deserves all the plaudits he gets.

“He was one guy who learnt on Saturday night, the first half he learnt a lot there. In the second half, what he did helped turn the game for us. I’m pleased with where he’s at; his feet are firmly on the ground.”

Another player who drew praise from the forwards coach when pressed on the latter was South African-born Irish international secondrow Jean Kleyn. “I actually thought he finished the season well, particularly in the Rainbow Cup. He gives us height, a real height in terms of carry, in terms of ruck, in terms of maul and that’s on top of his scrummaging as well.

“He’s fitter now that I’ve ever seen him. He gets through a huge work rate, and we measure the hard work on the field, and the numbers are undeniable these days because of GPS and what have you. There’s no hiding place for these guys now, because we know the maximum they can achieve in terms of work rate and output.

“I compare them all and they see every Monday morning how hard each other is working. He’s [Kleyn] doing well in those numbers, as is Fin Wycherley, I must say, another guy who is working exceptionally hard for us.”

Evolve

The maximum return of two bonus point victories from as many matches represents Munster by numbers in the season to date, but Johann van Graan’s side have also impressed in the manner in which they have looked to evolve in terms of playing style without sacrificing traditional strengths. It is important that they remain. Rowntree explained: “That’s our DNA, the bedrock of our game, but you need every tool available.

“We talk about an all-round game, playing the conditions, playing the opposition. You kind of feel a team out, find where you can punish them, then you go through that point. Every team in the world does that and you’d be a fool if you didn’t play to your strengths, but I think the development of our attacking game under Steve [Stephen Larkham] has been incredible.

“I take it back to the last try we scored against the Sharks [in the first match] for example, and the amount of offloads in that game. I see the structure and the detail that he’s bringing to our attack. It’s more impressive than anything I’ve seen before. You need to get back to what’s working for you, want every tool available in your armoury.”

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