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Carbery on track as Van Graan embraces the pressure of final showdown with Leinster

The Munster head coach has tasted success just once against Leinster, but ha confidence that his side can upset the odds on Saturday at the RDS.

Carbery and Van Graan at training in Thomond Park yesterday.
Carbery and Van Graan at training in Thomond Park yesterday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ONE IN TEN. That’s the stark record Munster will try to avoid dwelling too much on in the coming days.

10 encounters with Leinster since 2017, one success. And the rivalry currently has Leinster in a position to crow about five wins on the trot.

These teams have met in league finals before along with knockout ties in both European and Celtic competition. This weekend’s Pro14 final carries the weight of serious importance for Munster.

Head coach Johann van Graan says Munster have seen evidence through past meetings that they have the ability to beat Leinster in a decider. He inserts a caveat that basics must be executed to perfection to do so.

Chances created must not go begging.

“In the last two games specifically, we’ve had some opportunities in their 22, some we’ve finished and some we didn’t. We had some opportunities in the last game to score points just before half time, which we didn’t,” says Van Graan.

The head coach, whose one win over Leinster came on the night of James Lowe’s first-half red card in Thomond Park in 2018, has confidence that his side can convert their chances this time around.

Such confidence is in no small way imbued by their win away to Clermont earlier this season. On top of that landmark in their memory they can now add fit-again Joey Carbery (who Van Graan says is ‘excited to get going’ after being rested last weekend) along with a fresh Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander preparing to empty the tank and the England-beating form displayed by Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Tadhg Beirne.

cj-stander-and-diarmuid-barron CJ Stander back to business with Munster and getting to grips with Diarmuid Barron. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Earls and Murray are the only members of the current crop to have been involved in the last title win.  There are proven and promising talents all through the squad, but until they break Leinster’s dominance and grab Munster’s first trophy since 2011, the weight of history will continue to be more a burden than a boost.

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Rather than talk of such pressure as a negative, Van Graan routinely welcomed the demands of a final and continually signalled that he is simply looking forward to Saturday.

“It’s not something that adds extra pressure on us. We’ve got to go and do it, there’s nothing else to it on the day. And at the end of the day as a group we know that we will either win or lose on Saturday, there’s no way around that.

“That’s why we are looking to enjoy and embrace this week, and hopefully we on our best on Saturday and hopefully that will be good enough to beat Leinster on their home ground.”

The odds are against them, but when have they wanted it any other way.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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