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Dublin: -1 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018

'We'll have three days of training and then Toulon': Ireland ambition puts the squeeze on provinces

The European quarter-finals will come hot on the heels of Saturday’s Six Nations finale.

Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

MUNSTER COACH JOHANN van Graan does not expect to have any of his frontline Irish internationals back until they take on Toulon in the Champions Cup quarter-final at the end of the month.

Front-line Irish players like Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander will have a down week after Saturday’s Grand Slam decider against England and van Graan will not have them in camp until the start of the week they play Toulon.

Munster, who play Edinburgh in Murrayfield this Friday in a rescheduled Pro14 tie, will take on champions Scarlets the following weekend.

That’s a week before the crunch clash with Toulon but van Graan said it has been agreed not to play the internationals in that game, with Leinster, who play Ospreys away that weekend, also set to rest their frontline internationals.

“Credit to the Irish staff and the Munster staff they have been in constant communication. We will only have most our guys back for the Toulon week. That’s the way it is at the moment.

We had our best team playing against Castres and the next time they will play as a unit together will be against Toulon. We won’t have a lot of guys back for next week we will only have them for the Toulon week.

“Basically, after the Scarlets game, we will have three days of training and then the quarter-finals. But I guess it’s the same for all teams in Ireland. It’s us and Leinster at this stage in terms of the Champions Cup.

“It is the way it is. At this stage the Six Nations guys come first. You need to look at player welfare. It’s a good system in Ireland. Guys need to break physically and mentally as well. Hopefully they will all be in tune with us come Monday two weeks and ready for Toulon.”

Van Graan attended his first Irish game on Saturday since becoming Munster coach and enjoyed it immensely.

“In the 1995 World Cup I went to see Ireland play New Zealand at Ellis Park but this was the first one in Ireland that I went to (not as an opposition coach). I was at the game on Saturday with my family. I took my two boys and my wife to the match, it’s not my home country, it was just nice as a spectator. I really enjoyed it.

“It’s been an excellent few weeks for Ireland. Starting off with the French game in Paris, that drop-kick and last play of the game turned out to be massive in the context of the Six Nations. Glad that the Munster players played their part in the team. It’s looks like a happy team. It’s a very well-coached team.

“To win the Six Nations with one round left and be able to go for the Grand Slam is a massive achievement for Ireland,” added van Graan.

He must wait to see what players will return from Irish camp this week who might be available for their trip to Edinburgh, with cover for the midfield positions in short supply following the injuries to Chris Farrell and Jaco Taute.

Rory Scannell Rory Scannell and Rory Arnold have also been in camp through the Six Nations. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We have got a few injuries in the midfield now so we will to be creative around the next 11 weeks. Hopefully we go all the way, but at this stage it’s only Edinburgh we are concerned with.

“We only have Dan Goggin at this stage. Jaco is out, Chris Farrell is out. Both Sam Arnold and Rory Scannell are with Ireland at this stage so we are trying to improvise in terms of our training. Hopefully later in the week we will get some players let back to us.”

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