This is an off the top of the head thing so probably players I've missed but thought I'd throw this out for discussion.
We took about 3 years to realise we needed to move on. Another 2 years on from there and we're only now starting to see the steps forward. Funnily enough losing the big names has probably helped us (and in a couple of cases maybe it wouldn't hurt to push back some more). What I think has also helped is that the players seem to have bulked up again.
Kilcoyne has been a massive plus last few games. He will have some downs soon but he's making progress and getting the exposure. Big games early on don't destroy good players - something we need to realise.
Archer - hmmm, is progressing steadily but possibly his upper level isn't going to be that great.
Beyond that I think we're still in the needs work area here.
Still a bit of a worry. Sherry is a bit up and down, Varley has probably shown his best is just short of international level. But possibly they are pushing each other enough to get the level we need. If not there's a few in the background as well.
In theory POC injured, MOD retired, disaster. Foley has stepped up. Nagle on the way back. Holland a revelation this season and showing why we need a squad not just big names. DOC and Ryan are a concern but taken as a whole process Ryan's (final) emergence last season as an international lock was a big step forward. Playing BS at the moment could be ruining that.
The position of most concern to many and I'm still not sure why we need Stander. POM has stepped up to international level, took just half a game to get going this season and is still improving. Dougall a revelation of a find. Butler, now with the bulk to match the talent. DOC2 is the bulk. Add in Coughlan, Ronan and TOD we're not exactly cupboard bare. Stander just adds a problem, a good problem though, in that we've got talent to select from.
Murray was the big find of the last couple of years but the downside is worrying. We don't have a challenger for SH to push him. Williams has always been up and down, Stringer seems to be on the way down. ROG being selected those games has stalled us, sadly his injury may have been the best thing for Munster. We have taken 5 years to see a genuine alternative but worryingly it's taken ROG's form to dip as well. Hopeful on Hanrahan (serious talent) but he needs games.
Zebo last year, O'Dea this year has been positives. Barnes came through but will struggle to kick on much further as things stand. Still, look at Billy Holland and Barnes, Dineen etc have hope yet. Hurley is the backs equivalent of Holland this season. Always a good solid player but continues to show the doubters wrong even if they're disinterested in seeing it. Downside is someone like Jones just becoming the next Barry Murphy.
For me now they've had the games the players coming through have proved wrong all those who kept saying we don't have the talent to bring through and need to buy in or disappear. For my money Laulala has got worse and he was the guy bought in. Zebo, one who some on here have criticised heavily or even said would be out in the cold with LOD coming through, has been a star. He's totally eclipsed Howlett and should be an international this season. Guys like Holland, POM, Dougall, Sherry, Kilcoyne, Keatley, Hurley and Zebo have shown what we can do, without the big names, if we have some faith.
As I've said repeatedly, it's been the experienced guys who have underperformed and been the weak links often this season. That we can look at the last 2 performances and have much to criticise isn't just about being impossible to please. It's about being teased by what this squad is clearly capable of doing, even now and being frustrated that we've had to wait 5 years to be on step 1.5 of the rebuild when we clearly could be on step 2 or 3.
The future is undoubtedly bright, people just need to get on board with the fact that players won't go on forever and no player is so important that losing them means we have no talent left. We just need to take the hit and get these guys up to speed, we do have the talent.