Keith Wood wants Munster to change style or replace coach

Planet Rugby

Munster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions legend Keith Wood has laid into the Irish province’s tactics under head coach Johann van Graan and urged them to either change their style of play or replace the coach.

Last month, Munster announced that Van Graan would step down from his position at the end of the current season. Shortly afterwards it was confirmed that the South African would take over the coaching reins at Premiership outfit Bath ahead of the 2022/23 season on a long-term contract.

Since then, Munster battled to a 19-13 Champions Cup victory over Castres at Thomond Park before suffering a narrow 10-8 United Rugby Championship defeat against Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway.

Poor attacking play a concern

Van Graan and his coaching staff have received plenty of criticism for the team’s performances in those two matches with their attacking play – or lack thereof – being highlighted as a weakness by Wood.

The 49-year-old feels Munster’s poor attack is destroying their up-and-coming players’ style of play.

“There’s no point in talking about Munster’s attack, that doesn’t exist at the present moment in time,” Wood told the Off the Ball podcast.

“I think we’re beginning to ruin some of the players, I’m finding it incredibly hard to watch.

“If there’s a bit of disruption, then I’d rather the coaches went than stay and play that level of turgid nonsense.

“So, when I look at a fella like (Craig) Casey who I think has been overhyped and I would definitely overhype him because he’s incredibly exciting and his ability to get to the ball and flash the ball is a mark of what you want to have.

“The game changes and moves in cycles and it’s moved, again, to a really fast-paced game and Munster are slowing it down more while everyone else is speeding it up.

“Casey is now slowing down to get there and I don’t ever want to see that in his game. He’s a small nine, a nine who picks the ball the second it touches the ground and hits his No 10 or a forward running on to it.

“But, this constant slowing down… it was so unbelievably lacklustre, the lack of ambition before half-time, trying to pick and drive to get over when Connacht were one-man down.

“There was time and space on both sides and nothing happened, there was no thought process gone into it.

“The things that still frustrates me is that Munster try to play a style that if you’ve a huge pack of forwards you can play, Munster don’t have a huge pack of forwards. Slowing down the game is of no value.

“You’d rather see guys play with a bit of joy and not plod around the field, I looked at (Gavin) Coombes, who I’m a huge fan of, and he looked one-paced.

“I know it was a bad day, but that’s an indictment of Van Graan, that he’s not able to get his players to play at pace. If that is what he expects the team to play at, nobody is happy with that.”

And former hooker Wood believes that if Munster do not change their tactics then Van Graan should make an early exit.

“He’s gone, he’s going. What I’m looking at is a team that’s going to play against Connacht and Connacht are a very good side…. they’re playing trying to win, not afraid of losing,” he added.

“When I look at Munster at the moment, it’s almost about grinding out the win.

“The discipline was poor, the energy… I don’t know what’s going in the coaching set-up or the training, but if that is the extent of the first, big game of the Christmas and the extent of the energy then something isn’t right.

“Whether it’s because the players think the coach is gone or the coach isn’t getting his message across, there isn’t going to be wholesale changes in the players.

“The rumour mill is that a lot of the South African guys that have come over with him will go and I don’t know if that’s true either, I hope it isn’t.

“But, you’re looking at the game and saying ‘go, play at pace’.

“The manner of which Munster played at the weekend is the manner of the way they played against Leinster in the last few years and Saracens before that, it’s to have a limited style to stay in the game.

“It hasn’t been good enough further down the line, it’s now not good enough for a team that isn’t at the top of the tree.

“That’s what I’m saying, you say to Van Graan ‘are you willing to stop slowing it down?’

“Change the thinking or change the coach. I don’t know if they will. It’s not something that usually happens, we’re looking at a lot of young Munster players coming into the system, they need to be able to play and need to be able to grow in the game.”