Van Graan blocking out outside noise as Munster seek to build momuntum after Ulster win

The province face Castres in the Champions Cup this weekend without Joey Carbery and with fitness doubts hanging over Damian DeAllende and Peter O’Mahony.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Jan 10th 2022, 9:25 AM

AT ONE STAGE of his post-match media briefing on Saturday, Johann van Graan said the last seven days constituted a ‘normal week’. It was anything but. It started with a loss to Connacht, continued with the loss of their captain during Saturday’s warm-up, before they lost Simon Zebo to a red card after 14 minutes.

Significantly, Munster – van Graan’s Munster – didn’t lose the plot at that stage. Had they done so, Ulster would have cruised to their first win in Thomond Park since 2014, and the volume on the outside ‘noise’ would have been deafening.

It’s loud enough as it is. Despite losing just twice this season, van Graan’s tactics have been subjected to blunt criticism, Keith Wood and Donal Lenihan delivering a stinging analysis within the last seven days.

keith-wood Former Munster star Wood has been critical of van Graan's tactics. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Van Graan’s reaction to the criticism was calm. “It is all about the people on the inside (of the camp),” he said. “There will always be noise when you work in professional sport but luckily we have a very good leadership group and a very good coaching team.

“I can understand when people get carried away or when people make statements and that is part and parcel of the job. All we can do is focus on our process and inside the HPC we are all pretty composed. It was a normal week for us.”

This week is even more intense, two days training leading into a trip to France to face Castres. It’s worth remembering Munster have nine points from their two Champions Cup games so far. A place in the knock-outs is practically guaranteed already while their position in the URC is also healthy. Winning matches with 14 men – as Munster did on Saturday – often prove to be a turning point in a campaign.

“The Ulster game was a pretty physical encounter,” said van Graan. “We won’t get carried away. The last time we played Castres away we lost 13-12. The way they came back against other teams in the last two weeks means it is clear they will be a handful over there. We will look at the game in isolation, prepare well, and hopefully deliver a good performance.”

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It would be easier to do so if Peter O’Mahony and Damian DeAllende are given the green light to travel. Both players are nursing injuries, and a decision on their availability won’t be known until this evening at the earliest.

As for Joey Carbery, he won’t feature for ‘a number of weeks’ – which suggests he will not be around for the start of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. “We are very glad Joey is staying in Munster Rugby,” said van Graan. “He is such a big part of the squad here, he is happy here, and I felt during the Wasps game, he got back to his best – but unfortunately he picked up a freak injury.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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