The masterplan continues
The splendid isolation of Munster versus Leinster in Thomond Park no longer exists. Not after the substitutions of Johnny Sexton (60 minutes with Leinster trailing 16-10) and Joey Carbery (71 minutes, 19-10). Neither being tactical nor down to injury.
Rather than Irish rugby’s great rivalry, we witnessed the highest grade training session imaginable.
The fixture is trivialised for the greater good but the removal of Sexton was a pre-planned decision – from how high up we can only assume - that directly led to Munster victory.
Witness a competition trying to sell itself as serious when the best player in the world is pulled from its flag ship regular season game with 20 minutes to go and his side trailing by six points. Fear not.
Munster responded by yanking Carbery. Sure, Ciarán Frawley will learn from tossing the contest ending intercept pass to Keith Earls. Sure, Tyler Bleyendaal is risen from the dead. Yes, Toulouse and Gloucester are lurking with England invading the Aviva on February 2nd. It’s a World Cup year, they’ll tell you, but what of the league’s reputation?
(We assume life goes on post Japan 2019)
Penny for the thoughts of Guinness and Eir? Sexton – the world player of the year, the captain of these champions – leaving the field, when the moment demands he soldiers on, cements the Pro14 on its lowly perch: an enticing warm-up for Europe and little more besides.
This can no longer be branded Irish rugby’s El Classico, or whatever lofty moniker is attached to ultra serious sport.
The obvious defence: see Eddie Jones’s badly fractured English squad.
The Masterplan is all about Ireland.
“We got to think big,” said IRFU chief David Nucifora (pictured above) recently.
“Anything is possible if everyone is aligned and working together. One of the real strengths of the Irish systems is it is joined up.”