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O'Donoghue excited by 'fresh start' under Van Graan

The versatile back row is intent on forcing his way into the team to take on Leicester next month.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MUNSTER BACK ROW Jack O’Donoghue is hoping to take advantage of a fresh set of coaching eyes to further strengthen his claim for a starting spot in Johann van Graan’s pack.

The Waterford man, who can operate in all three positions across the back row, has made six starts already in this campaign, but with CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony rested after the international window and Tommy O’Donnell just picking up pace on the road to recovery from a shoulder problem, O’Donoghue’s abrasive style will be valuabe in the Champions Cup clash with Leicester Tigers on 9 December.

“It’s a fresh start for us and Johann made that point earlier that we all start on zero,” O’Donoghue said shortly after Van Graan addressed the entire squad and staff in the UL high performance centre on Tuesday.

“No one is up on a pedestal or anything like that. Everyone is on a level playing field and some players need that in order to get their season off and running again.”

There is great excitement around. Everyone is trying to put their front foot forward. They are trying to showcase what they can do, be it in in training, the match, and there always is that excitement when a new face comes in. People are eager to impress. There is a good buzz around the place.”

Coming out of the organisation-wide meeting,  O’Donoghue was enthusiastic about the direction his home province was going. As expected, Van Graan will aim to bring more of the same in terms of Munster’s gameplan. But by the time the Six Nations comes around he will have two months under his belt and will begin formulating the changes, be they short-term or long, he needs to enact his own strategy.

Jack O'Donoghue and Peter O'Mahony Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We had a good chat and he gave great insight into what he believes in, about how we need to progress. He addressed – him and Rassie they would have known each other and the gameplan is going to stay very much the same — he is not going to come in and change everything. But there might be one or two slight changes. But going forward, for the remainder of this season, he is very happy with the way things are going.”

After a tumultuous win over Zebre, Van Graan will get a first taste of a home fixture when the Ospreys come to Cork. The Welsh region are the only side below Zebre in the Pro14′s conference A, but O’Donoghue is wary of their past pedigree.

“We know that if our discipline is poor, they will punish us. It’ll go three, six, nine, 12. They will really punish us if we don’t get it right and that is something we will address later in the team meeting.

“We did address (discipline against Zebre) at half time and in the second half it was a bit better, but two yellow cards in the game was, you know, is something that in Europe, or even the Ospreys this weekend, that will be punished.

“They can do anything. These are the games where we can slip up and that can cost us long term. They are playing with the shackles off now at the moment. They haven’t much to lose. They have only won two games this season and are very dangerous.”

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‘I’d like to think she’s looking down, smiling down at me. That I’m doing her proud’

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Sean Farrell

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