'It's going to be one of Munster's greatest wins. I have no doubt'

Billy Holland believes his former team-mates will do a job in Coventry.

Billy Holland is this year's recipient of the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Tom Rooney Award.
Billy Holland is this year's recipient of the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Tom Rooney Award.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

BILLY HOLLAND IS a few months out of the Munster squad since his retirement at the end of last season, but his faith in the men who were his team-mates remains undimmed.

The Cork man – who was been named as this year’s recipient of the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Tom Rooney Award in recognition of his contribution to Irish rugby – firmly believes Munster will beat Wasps on Sunday in the Champions Cup.

The southern province have had to deal with serious disruption in the build-up to this weekend’s European clash, but Holland is backing them to win on the road.

“They’re going to win 100%, I have no doubt about it,” said Holland. “I might not even know some of the names on the bench. I have full faith in them that they are going to turn up and wear their hearts on their sleeves.

“It’s going to be one of Munster’s greatest ever wins. Backs to the wall is an understatement. I have absolutely no doubt they’re going to rock up and they’re going to win.”

While Munster will benefit from the availability of nine international players, as well as potentially being able to name a handful of those who finish self-isolation on Saturday, there will also be some academy players involved this weekend.

For those youngsters, Holland knows the message will be simple.

“Just be yourself, enjoy getting to train with Munster. Don’t try and do anything differently.

“Like Eoin O’Connor [the second row], he’s not trying to be Jean Kleyn or RG Snyman or Fineen Wycherley or Thomas Ahern. He’s just being Eoin O’Connor – go out and do what you do.

“It’s the reason they are there in the academy. For some of these lads, they might never get to experience this again, you really don’t know.

“I think that will be a very simple message that the lads will try to get across. Enjoy it, be yourself and if any of them happen to be in the 23-man squad, you go out and get stuck into a load of English lads over in England.”

While Munster are solely focused on getting the job done in Coventry on Sunday, it remains to be seen what happens with head coach Johann van Graan beyond the end of this season.

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The South African’s current deal expires at the end of the season but with attack coach Stephen Larkham having already confirmed his departure, Holland is hoping van Graan will stay.

“It’s a huge blow,” said Holland of Larkham’s impending exit at the end of this season.

“Steve is the best attack coach I have played under, from an individual’s point of view. I was at Munster for 14 years and he is the first person who is really teaching forwards how to run lines, really teaching forwards how to pass the ball, be on the ball, use their skills.

“It’s a real shame that he is leaving. My hope is that they can get someone who is of an equivalent ability to Steve to come in and replace him and keep Johann and the rest of the crew on board.

“It is a shame that Steve is leaving but I do believe Johann is definitely the right man for the job, with someone who is like Steve, who has that real attack, skill development mindset.”

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Murray Kinsella

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