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'What has transpired over the last six years has been a disgrace'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Legendary Munster out-half Tony Ward has slammed the downturn in the province’s fortunes in recent times, describing the past six years for the club as a disgrace. Not since 2011, when they defeated Leinster in the PRO12 final at Thomond Park, have Munster won a trophy and a year out from the World Cup, Ward believes it is imperative that the province he represented in 1978 when they defeated the All Blacks must up its game or Ireland will potentially suffer.


Ward, who toured South Africa with the 1980 Lions, described the July Test series win by Andy Farrell’s Ireland as “one of the greatest achievements ever, if not the greatest, by an Irish representative team in international sport”.

However, despite this highest of high praise, he feels the lead-in to the upcoming World Cup finals in France needs “all four provinces delivering a level of performance from the off that sees Farrell and his management team being able to pick liberally from the best of all four”.

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Writing in his new URC season preview column in the Irish Independent, Ward placed particular emphasis on Munster upping the ante to help the Ireland cause, admitting he was glad to see the back of Johann van Graan and Stephen Larkham.

“What has transpired in Munster over the last six years has been a disgrace with both the IRFU and the Munster Branch/Munster Rugby indicted,” he wrote. “We’ll stop short of suggesting the lunatics have been running the asylum but in all honesty, it has been demoralising for players and supporters – of which I am proudly one – alike.


“At least in the 17 months of the Rassie Erasmus reign, there was the significant and substantial vocal presence of Jacques Nienaber with water bottle in hand on the sideline. He was the driving force as almost every player of that abbreviated era will testify. As for their replacements when Erasmus and Nienaber were recalled for national service, the less said about Johann van Graan and Stephen Larkham the better. Good luck to them at Bath and the Brumbies respectively.


“Graham Rowntree now has the space and authority to be his own man. He and Denis Leamy will ensure old forward standards will be maintained, but the key to Munster’s future and, outside of Ireland winning the World Cup in twelve months’ time, my earnest wish is to see Munster under Mikey Prendergast adapt like almost every other club of consequence to the modern game.

“I’m excited at the prospect and yes of course it will take a little bit of time to tweak the Farrell/Mike Catt formula a level down. The pushover try still has its place but only its place. And dare we suggest the great friendship between Prendergast and Paul O’Connell is no bad thing for province and country going forward.”


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