RONAN O'GARA: There’s more in Munster than we are seeing on game day

CJ Stander takes stock following Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final loss to Saracens last Saturday at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The Munster players have, unlike Leinster, yet to get through a tight battle, says Ronan O’Gara: ‘They are crippled with doubt. I know what it’s like, I was the same from 2000 to 2006.’ Picture: David Fitzgerald

If you are a Munster rugby supporter looking for upsides from the Heineken Cup semi-final loss to Saracens, you’ll be searching for a bit. Here’s a morsel: In terms of their PRO14 chances, the players would have been able to put last Saturday in Coventry to bed pretty rapidly on Monday morning and move on.

Regret is one thing. Reality is a more positive takeaway. In terms of the bigger picture and 2020, Munster has an elephant-in-the-room issue but the chastening loss to Saracens will not impinge on the remainder of this season’s domestic campaign. At least it shouldn’t.

I watched Manchester City win at United on Wednesday. The same sense that dominated the post-match discussion was relevant in the context of Munster and the rugby elite of Europe — they are getting no closer. In fact, Munster are further away now from a European final than we were in 2013 losing that semi-final to Clermont Auvergne, and they have had four attempts since. However the most important thing is to continue to ask the hard questions and hopefully come up with solutions to make a negative into a positive.

It’s not like there’s a huge talent deficiency in Munster. Put Earlsie and Carbery back in that starting XV last Saturday, and it’s an impressive-looking side. But Munster don’t have magic in their mix now. They possess a game and a structure that will steer them through the forest of the pool stage every year, but when it comes to the open prairies, when every weakness is identified and exposed, every strength highlighted, they are short. They lack what I would call a ‘chance-your-arm game’ that on a good day could catch a Saracens.

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