A 35 year old Munster nut who got bitten by the Munster bug through the win over Australia in 1992. Semi-retired player and semi-functioning committee member. Apart from the 2006 HC cup win over Biarittz, the 2000 semi-final try against Toulouse is a favourite rugby moment or the Zebo hat-trick in Milton Keynes in 2012. Colliebee.blogspot.com has some musings.
There’s more change at Munster this season than you would see in an arcade of a seaside resort.
It's well stated! New management, new system, new era and the killer for the men of the southern Irish province is the loss of so much experience in such a short space of time. Injuries and time have taken away a feared pack, and those next generation youngsters coming through need time.
These guys, Holland, Nagle, O'Donnell, Sherry, Archer, Kilcoyne etc., do not have the benefit of learning on the field of play from a senior star, much like Donnacha Ryan did a long apprenticeship under the stewardship of O'Connell and O'Callaghan, much like Horan did from the Claw, same for O'Connell from Gallaimh, Leamy from Williams etc.; they had time to learn their trade.
In a way this is the first truly professional Munster team of the professional era. The players now have come through academies rather than through the club system, which is a first for Munster and the last link to amateurism gone.
So supporters' perception of the team and expectations are still rather lofty – it is Munster after all, the least expected by supporters is to make the RaboDirect PRO12 Play-Offs, and from what I have seen so far that might be tough.
The Ospreys showed against both the Scarlets and us how good they can be, inconsistency being their greatest foe. If the Ospreys can become as consistent as milk, they should get a place.
Ulster's depth and Leinster’s versatility should see them get a place too, so it looks like Munster will be battling Glasgow Warriors, Scarlets, and Treviso for the last spot.
But it is early days in the Penney regime, so who knows what will unfold. The backs have shown a bit more invention under the guidance of Simon Mannix, however when pressured with a quick defensive line they look a bit aimless and even clueless so far.
Despite the early promise of the Lulala/Downey or Earls midfield, it came undone against the Ospreys and really ran out of steam against Ulster in a game the Red of old would have suffocated.
So why did the midfield run out of steam? Without Coughlin and O'Connell, even Donnacha Ryan or Peter O'Mahony in the pack (and most of those have been missing thus far this season), Munster have not had forwards taking the ball up. It has been left to the centres to carry this can.
The pack has to pick up the pieces, and people become leaders doing this. There is evidence Anthony Foley's drilling is working, we have seen some effective mauls and a decent scrum. However it's the other work that needs polishing.
Despite success against Ulster, the breakdown is an area we need to target – Munster are not creating enough turnovers at present and seem to lack that manic intensity numbers 1-8 brought to the field in every match.
It is a Munster transition, but the Play-Offs of the RaboDirect PRO12 is a reasonable target, and it is a work in progress – at least Penney, Foley, Mannix and co have some pretty decent tools to work with.
Biggest surprise so far?
Edinburgh, after a European semi-final last season I expected them to kick on. They haven't really kicked off yet.
Most valuable player so far this season?
Tough call. So far, George North started off like a train, but Paddy Jackson has been doing everything right for Ulster – so Paddy Jackson it is.
Overall season prediction for your side?
I can see them just missing the Play-Offs, squad is a little depleted. I would say 5th
Other predictions? (Top-points or try scorers or anything else you’d like to venture!)
George North will be top try scorer.
Treviso will be fighting for a Play-Off place up to the end.
Scarlets will be the most exciting team this year to watch.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?
It's hard to look past Ulster at this point, but they will be pushed hard by the Ospreys and Leinster.