Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood says Munster’s acquisition of Springbok lock Jason Jenkins ‘sends the wrong signals’ to Irish youth players.
Munster faced stiff competition from Jake White’s Vodacom Bulls to secure Jenkins’ signature following the completion of the player’s stint at Toyota Verblitz in Japan, but it was announced last week that coach Johann van Graan’s side managed to land his services ahead of the upcoming European season.
The successful recruitment of Jenkins as a replacement for the outgoing CJ Stander, has however been met with criticism, as Irish players like Thomas Aherne and other young second rowers appear to have been overlooked in favour of overseas players.
Speaking candidly ahead of Munster’s Champions Cup playoff against Toulouse this past weekend, Wood suggested that the Irish club made the wrong decision to sign Jenkins.
‘For me it wasn’t the right move. I didn’t like it; I think it sends out all the wrong signals to the youth,’ Wood said.
‘I understand there is a rationale behind it, but I think you can justify every decision and, for me, I am very uncomfortable with that. We have to start using some of our talent that we have coming through, and we have to start maximising that talent.
‘We need to do a huge amount of restructuring to get that pipeline from Munster. We need to get that pipeline delivering more players earlier, and better players earlier. Even so, I don’t think your first option should be to go overseas.
‘I know that there is a rationality to it. There are two guys leaving, there are players injured, there will be players going to Ireland camp and maybe the Lions as well.
‘There are a whole variety of reasons why you can do it, but you could make that justification to change every player, one to 15, to try and find a better player in the world. For me, I would rather see a Munster home-grown talent brought into that situation.’
Despite the likes of Aherne singled out as being the most impacted by the signing of Jenkins, Wood suggested it is the fringe players that deserve better.
‘Thomas Aherne is a young guy. I think there may be other players in the area just outside that could get a huge amount of benefit,’ Wood explained.
‘We know the PRO14 standard isn’t really good, so some of these players could get great experience at that point.
‘I think Thomas Aherne offers huge potential, and he may need another year to do it. I understand that rationale, but I think he is a very high ceiling if you can get him through that period of time.
‘There are other players, like Paddy Kelly maybe, on the outside that should be closer to getting that chance and the opportunity to wear that jersey and try and deliver for it.
‘You never know until you get the chance. I don’t know why you would go for what would have to be a big-money offer for a guy from South Africa to come in.
‘I think we have far too many players from overseas as it stands, so I think we are looking at the wrong direction.’
Photo: Getty Images