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Rowntree hails Coombes’ reaction to Ireland setback

January 20th, 2023 6:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Munster's Gavin Coombes. (Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland)

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SIX-FOOT six-inch Gavin Coombes is hard to miss on and off the pitch, and he delivered a giant performance to match his doorway-filling frame, as Munster beat Northampton 27-23 in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park on Saturday.

The Skibbereen man scored two first-half tries in his powerful player-of-the-match performance to fire a reminder of his huge talent to Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

Coombes didn’t feature for Ireland in the Autumn internationals against Fiji and Australia after a below-par display when Ireland A lost to New Zealand at the RDS in November.

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has described that as ‘a kick up the backside’ for the man from Betsboro, who has bounced back in style since that setback. He has now scored four tries in three Champions Cup games – and eight this season – to move to 29 in total for Munster (averaging one try every two games) and has been very impressive of late for the province. 

He brought that dash of West Cork magic to Thomond, and his showing won’t have gone unnoticed.

‘He was disappointed,’ Rowntree said of Coombes’ missing out on Ireland’s games in November, ‘but I think it was the right thing at the time and so does he. He came back, rolled his sleeves up and played well for us in that famous game against South Africa in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and his game has developed since then. But I think it gave him a kick up the backside. He’d recognise that.’

 

Rowntree added: ‘He’s fitter than he’s been for a long time. His footballing intelligence has come on massively in the last year. He’s worked on that aspect of his game. He knows he can’t be a one-trick pony, just carrying the ball – which he’s very good at. He carries the ball for us more than anyone. But no, he’s worked on that side of his game. I’m delighted for him. I can’t speak highly enough about him. He’s so important to us as a club, what he does for us.’

Coombes wasn’t the only West Cork man involved against Northampton – Innishannon’s Jack Crowley started and kicked a late penalty, and Bantry’s Josh Wycherley and Rosscarbery’s John Hodnett both came off the bench in the second half. Liam Coombes was named on the bench. Next up for Munster is an away trip against Toulouse in the Champions Cup on Sunday (3.15pm). 

Meanwhile, both Skibbereen’s Gillian Coombes (sister of Gavin) and Urhan’s Laura Sheehan were involved as Munster beat Leinster 26-17 in the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship in Musgrave Park on Saturday. Enya Breen missed out through injury. With two wins from two games, if Munster beat Connacht this weekend in Galway, they will lift the title.

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