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'Change or be changed' - Provinces get used to dealing with uncertainty

Connacht and Munster insisted they had no idea what would come next after Saturday night’s clash.

Munster boss Johann van Graan arrives at the Sportsground.
Munster boss Johann van Graan arrives at the Sportsground.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE SENSE OF frustration was palpable amidst the uncertainty on Saturday night in Galway.

Munster had just clung on for a 16-10 win against Connacht – who really should have stolen victory at the very death – but there were none of the usual words about moving swiftly on to focus on the next game.

That was simply because Connacht and Munster didn’t know who or where or if they would be playing this coming weekend, with the French clubs set to pull out of the next fortnight of planned Champions Cup games.

And so it was that both provinces – as well as Leinster and Ulster – had no clarity about which game they would be preparing for this Monday morning.

“I actually have no idea but what I would like is, as quickly as possible, we need to know. With everything that’s been going on, the one thing that hurts people and frustrates and stresses people is uncertainty,” said Connacht boss Andy Friend on Saturday night.

“I’m not having a shot at anyone. It’s the reality of what we’re living in at the moment, it’s tricky times. We will all look back in a few years’ time and ask how the hell we got through it.

“We’ll say it was bloody hard but we got through it. Listen, it is what it is.

“We said to the boys to go home, look after themselves and we’ll let you know as soon as we know.”

Indeed, much like the rest of us, professional rugby coaches and players have had to get accustomed to the lack of certainty that they usually thrive on.

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finlay-bealham-arrives Connacht prop Finlay Bealham on Saturday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Previously, pro teams would have had nearly every detail for entire seasons planned ahead of time but Covid-19 has forced them to adapt.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not ideal,” said Munster boss Johann van Graan. “Our theme since the lockdown started way back in March is ‘change or be changed.’

“We know that change is the only certainty at this stage. We are so lucky to be able to play rugby. When we drove in today we said hopefully as the four provinces at least we are giving people an out for their mental space.

“It’s about doing what we love and we are certainly doing that. We have such empathy with everybody and we’ve just got to make sure we all get through this.

“It’s so serious and way more important than rugby, so if we can play any part in putting a few smiles on peoples faces that is great.”

While the Champions Cup is set to be suspended, the possibility of two weekends without scheduled fixtures means many fans will hope to see the previously postponed Guinness Pro14 Munster vs. Leinster clash at Thomond Park being played over the next fortnight.

“That is not my decision but we still need to catch up on that Leinster game,” said van Graan.

“Leinster v Munster games are big occasions in Irish rugby so if the decision from Pro14 is that we play Leinster in this gap, we would be looking forward to it.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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