It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a decade now since Munster won their first ever Heineken Cup, and while they aren’t the powerhouse they were 10 years ago, the province still places a great amount of significance on European competition.
It’s off then, that Munster never had a bespoke European jersey until two seasons ago, and 2016/17 sees Adidas’ second attempt at it. The original subtle hooped design was one of our favourite Munster shirts ever, and the new one takes that theme and builds on it significantly.
So, as a base we have a similar tonal hooped design to last season, although in something of a contrast to red Munster jerseys of the last few seasons, the province’s secondary dark blue colour is much more prominent, with the collar and sleeves – perhaps a nod to the blue change shirt that they wore for their most recent 2008 Heineken Cup Final victory in Cardiff?
But unlike the restrained, demure 2014-16 shirt, this is a much busier, more intricate design, and it’s all designed to nod to the history of Munster. Firstly, we have a tartan pattern that criss-crosses, which is, as you’ve probably already guessed, a nod to the traditional Munster tartan pattern, but that’s not all…
In a similar vein to the home jersey, sublimated writing plays a big part in the design – specifically, we have the names of the six counties of Munster – Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford – written in the original Irish, and also, hidden away for those with keen vision, you might also find the McCarthy clan’s Latin motto, ‘Forti et Fideli nihil difficile‘. which Munster fans probably know in its adapted, and translated form, ‘To the brave and faithful, nothing is impossible’ – the province’s own motto.
So why are all these words and phrases diagonally slashing across the front of the jersey? Well, it’s not just to look dynamic and interesting. No, apparently it’s designed to reflect an old Irish custom that was particularly prevalent in Munster, whereby people would respond to letters they were sent by writing diagonally across the space left on the original letter (if we’ve got that wrong, Irish history/literary scholars, please correct us in the comments!).
Adidas might be the finest exponents of the ‘rugby shirt with a story to tell’ concept – you only need look at the German giant’s recent efforts for France, the Māori All Blacks or any of the New Zealand Super Rugby teams to see what we mean, and this one is probably the most interesting and involved attempt to do this with a European team.
Munster are a side replete with history and pedigree, particularly in the European scene, and this jersey does a great job of reflecting both the recent and ancient history of Munster as a team and the province. It’s also a really nice, really cool shirt – one that treads the line between retro and modern very nicely, and will do the province proud no matter how far they get in the Champions Cup this year.