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Sunday 22 October 2017

foley can use leaks as spur

Email controversy could work in Munster's favour

In Ronan O'Gara's autobiography, the Corkman uncovers something of the psyche of Anthony Foley as Ireland return home from the humiliation of the 2007 World Cup.

The players are in an emotional tailspin. There is no hiding place from the fallout that fills the radio airwaves. They need support, some crumbs of comfort, through a difficult time.

Foley presses out a welcome home text to Ireland's fallen heroes. You expect a note of sympathy. You are wrong.

"Ye're not the first Irish team to bring disgrace on the nation and ye won't be the last," it read.

And so the man goes. Where there is darkness, he drops dark humour.

Seven years later, there is nothing to laugh out loud about as the rumour mill turned to fact in the Sunday Independent four days ago.

An internal email had been posted out to Munster players last Wednesday with personal, sometimes negative comments about individual players contained therein.

It is a potential bomb blast that was tenderly defused by Munster Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald and coach Foley holding their hands up to the mistake that was made.

The thing about Foley is that he was always known for his clever ways on the field. There is no reason to believe he is any different as a coach than he was as a player.

If ever there is a man to turn a negative into a positive, it is him.

What Fitzgerald called the "human error" of emailing confidential private information could be construed as a moment of opportunity for Foley to seal the players off against the invading media hounds.

Afterall, the real test of a manager/coach is how he can turn a bad situation to his advantage. The siege mentality has always been kind to Munster.

In terms of Munster's pre-season performances, this explosive revelation was delivered to the players four days after falling flat on their faces to Gloucester 45-8 at Kingsholm.

The reaction could have eaten into what Foley is trying to nurture in the southern province. It wasn't. Forty-eight hours later, Munster regrouped to subdue London Irish 17-5 in Waterford.

"The players would have gotten this information anyway as part of our ongoing review to make us a better team, trying to make them better," defended Foley, also on Tuesday.

"If you write things down, you have to be prepared to stand over it, be prepared that someone's going to see it, be prepared that it could make the media. We understand that in this game."

If ever there was an example of a potential disaster triggering the proper reaction, this was it.

Anyway, it is a naïve man who thinks Foley has not said what he has written down in an environment where industrial language is commonplace and the brutal truth is a basic tenant of Munster's everyday ethos.

Admittedly, this is flimsy evidence of a renewal of faith in Foley, especially from the younger and foreign players.

The first test will come with the grind of the PRO12 League which will start against Edinburgh at Thomond Park tomorrow night and the litmus test when Munster embark on their latest European odyssey in October.

All that matters is what Munster do when the whitewash is crossed.

This negative will either be turned into a positive or regurgitated as the first blow in a blown season.

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