Stephen Larkham has unequivocally stated his desire, and that of all the coaching ticket, to remain beyond this season with Munster. In the expectation that the province are in the throes of offering new contracts to head coach Johann van Graan and his assistants, Larkham has made clear his ongoing commitment to Munster.
Larkham, who won the World Cup as well as the Tri Nations Championship and Super Rugby title with the Wallabies as one of the greatest outhalves of the pro era, has been an attack coach for the last decade with the Brumbies, the Wallabies and now Munster.
Entering his third season with the province, Larkham was more revealing than van Graan a week ago when asked on Tuesday if he would like to stay on as Munster’s senior coach.
“Of course, we all do,” he answered, without hesitation.
“It’s a great environment here at the moment. We certainly feel like things are building in the right direction. We had a really good year last year and we want that to continue.
“We’ve got a really good cohesion as a coaching group at the moment, we’re really enjoying it and from a playing perspective it’s really our third year together now as a larger group. Yeah, the environment’s great at the moment.”
Larkham admitted that while there were some good signs in an encouraging start to their United Rugby Championship campaign with last Saturday’s 42-17 win over the Sharks at Thomond Park, there were also patches of play that showed the need for improvements.
He gave "special mention" to Simon Zebo. "I thought he had a fantastic return to the Munster jersey" and "RG Snyman, his first game after an horrendous 12 months for him. It was good to have those guys back out there and Rowan Osborne making his debut for Munster. All in all we're very happy with the result, there's no doubt about that, but like everyone else there's a lot of things that we can still work on."
Munster finished with a flourish last Saturday when Zebo finished off a thrilling attack from a restart featuring a blur of offloads and tip-on passes before Dan Goggin’s deft kick through on the run; the sort of try that evidently pleased Larkham.
“Well I think that was the whole of the team playing there. Yeah, it was a beautiful passage. We had a similar one last year against Cardiff, except this one came from the kick-off and touched just about every set of hands out there, which was really nice. It was good to see.”
But he provided a caveat.
“We had really good conditions on the weekend. If conditions are right and you get a bit of luck, sometimes those things come off. It was good to watch. It’s beautiful rugby isn’t it, when the ball is kept alive like that?
“There are challenging factors. We would love to do that every single passage of play but most teams in this competition have a very good defence and I think by the end of the game the Sharks were pretty fatigued and they knew they couldn’t win the game.”
Ahead of next Saturday’s game against the Stormers at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.35pm), Munster also had no fresh injury concerns arising from the win over the Sharks, while both John Hodnett and Kevin O’Byrne returned to training this week.
An achilles tendon injury has sidelined Hodnett since last November with O’Byrne missing the start of the season due to a leg injury.
James French sustained a concussion in action for the Munster Development XV against Leinster on Friday and will enter the return to play protocols under the supervision of the medical department.
Liam O'Connor (neck) is unavailable this week but is in line to make a return to training shortly. Chris Farrell (abdomen), Jason Jenkins (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee) are continuing to rehab and will be unavailable for the coming weeks.