In the last few weeks, Robin Copeland has announced he will be joining Connacht from Munster.
In recent months Jordi Murphy has bravely and cleverly left the comfort of the Leinster pack for a struggling Ulster side. By doing so he is giving his Ireland chances every boost possible, cementing a good run of games heading into a World Cup year. Marty Moore’s return to the island from Wasps will also add some additional competition at tighthead prop.
Inter-provincial transfers have become common lately. Conway and Farrell are thriving at Munster, as is John Cooney up in Ravenhill. In New Zealand, moves between franchises have equally benefitted players. Rather than remain in Kieran Read’s shadow for his career, Luke Whitelock, (Sam’s younger brother) made the short trip to fellow South Island side the Highlanders, whom he has captained in recent times. Seta Tamanivalu has also seen his form pick up following a move from Chiefs to Crusaders.
I’m currently reading ‘The New Breed’ by Patrick McCarry, an excellent book on the professionalisation of rugby in Ireland. Written two years ago, McCarry interviews Chris Farrell in Grenoble as he tries to forge a midfield role in Jackman’s Top 14 side. Having left an Ulster team stacked in the centre Farrell spoke humbly but optimistically of a return to Ireland and a crack at the national team. Proving perseverance pays off Farrell started his first Six Nations’ game against Wales a few weeks back, deservedly being named Man of the Match.Although injury has put his rise on pause for the moment, such perseverance will again see him make a swift and emphatic return.
Moves abroad take nerve. Leaving family, one’s comfort zone and entering a new culture, both in social and rugby terms cannot be easy. The verdict on such travels are not always the most balanced. Hanrahan’s move to Saints or Sexton and Madigan’s sojourns in France were always spoken of with an air of failure. The veracity of such failure is something I’m usually sceptical about. The road less travelled is sometimes needed as not all players progress in the same pattern. Mike Ross got his first cap pushing thirty after years in the Premiership. Farrell slugged it out in an over-achieving Grenoble side in possibly the world’s most physical domestic league.
There are too many examples of players who have reaped the rewards of leaving their home province. There can be more too if players take the plunge. The fly-half situation at Leinster comes to mind as three players vie for one berth. Coming into 2019 when we need depth in that area. This stands for Munster too where three if not four (Bill Johnstone) compete for one spot. Tadgh Beirne, another success story abroad will return to bolster the second-row of Munster as well as Ireland. Players need to be willing to take this risk if they want to come away with the rewards.
Author: Shane Nolan
Shane is a History and English graduate of University College Cork with a keen interest in writing, rugby, and writing about rugby. He is both a follower of Munster and Irish rugby as well as an enthusiastic viewer of Super Rugby. His zest for Southern Hemisphere rugby often gets him up at 6 am to see some proper running tries and off-loads (as well as some dodgy kicking and questionable forward passes).