Following on from last week’s confirmation that James Downey will be joining the province next season, Munster have revealed the Casey Laulala has signed. The ex-All Black is out of contract with the Cardiff Blues at the end of this season and Munster have beaten off what Tony McGahan called a “very impressive chasing pack” to get their man. The centre has signed a two year deal.
The 29-year-old has two caps for New Zealand, the second of which came against Ireland back in 2006. The same year, Laulala scored the only try of the game as his Crusaders side beat the Hurricanes in the Super 14 final. The All Black joined the Blues in 2009 and has gone on the make 58 appearances for the Welsh region, scoring 14 tries.
Laulala will be expected to add explosive running to the Munster outside centre position. At his best, he is elusive, possesses quick feet in traffic and a good burst of pace. Munster will hope to draw the best from a player who will be 30 by the time next season rolls around. If truth be told, Laulala can blow hot and cold depending on his mood. McGahan will demand consistency from the New Zealander.
Laulala’s move will be disheartening for young Munster midfielders like Danny Barnes, Troy Smith and JJ Hanrahan. However, McGahan believes that Laulala will “act as a mentor to the emerging back talent we have in our squad”. His experience will of course be useful in this regard, but surely it would serve these young players better actually playing for their province.
Is Laulala really an upgrade on what Munster currently have? Lifeimi Mafi is an explosive, elusive runner at his best but struggles for consistency too. Laulala has plenty to prove at Munster but certainly has the ability to win over the Munster faithful. At over 100kg, he and Downey will beef up the size of the Munster midfield at a time when centres are looking bigger than ever. Munster fans will get an early chance to look at their new signing when the Blues visit Thomond Park for the PRO12 match on the 24th of this month.