MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan insists it was Joey Carbery’s decision to move to the southern province, and he had no part to play in convincing the 22-year-old to leave Leinster.
Carbery, currently in Ireland camp at Carton House, started pre-season training with his new Munster team-mates earlier this month after signing a two-year deal with the province.
The announcement that Carbery would be leaving his native Leinster at the end of last season concluded one of the longest-running transfer sagas in Irish rugby history, with the Athy native stressing his move to Limerick was based purely on rugby reasons.
In putting his international future first, Carbery arrives at Munster seeking more game-time in the number 10 jersey, and van Graan has been impressed by his attitude in the early weeks.
“I think whenever people want to move to different spots in the world and possibly in Ireland, they want to buy into a vision and into something bigger than yourself,” the Munster head coach said.
“It’s something that he thought he could be part of and hopefully he plays a big role in that. I left it to the individual. Leinster is a quality, quality team. They won both competitions last year and he made the decision to come to Munster, I’m very glad about the decision but it was totally his decision.”
He added: “I’ve really enjoyed him, he’s a down-to-earth type of guy, quality individual. I value the person first before the player. He slotted in pretty quickly, he’s one of five out-halves that we’ve got and you know he has to perform on-field to earn his spot.
“He seems to have a very good head on him, he can kick with both feet, I was really impressed by that and just his general understanding of the game. He’s got the attributes that you want in a out-half — calm, composed, a very good understanding of the game.”
Carbery is unlikely to feature for Munster until the fourth or fifth rounds of the Pro14 season as part of the re-integration process of Ireland internationals after the summer tour, with van Graan working with a reduced group ahead of Friday’s friendly against London Irish.
With several players still rehabbing injuries, the southern province will have a squad of no more than 30 players for their first hit-out of the season in Cork, but all eyes are on 1 September when the serious business begins.
After falling short in two semi-finals last year, Munster get their 2018/19 campaign underway against the Cheetahs at Thomond Park, and after a long pre-season period at their high performance base in UL, van Graan says excitement is building.
“One of the key things for us is to improve our away form this year, we were very good at home but not necessarily good away from home,” the South African continued.
“It’s one of the things that we want to improve on. The Cheetahs are a quality team, we’re going to start with them fresh. They’ve started in the Currie Cup already against the Blue Bulls. So they’ll be ready once they come here in three weeks to Thomond Park. You know my feeling, we just take it one at a time.
“Every team is still very excited, nobody has played a game yet, everybody’s got their plans. For us it’s about excellence and to continue that every single day. Every team can have a good week, we’re looking to have 32-43 very good weeks to hopefully put us in a position to play in the playoffs at the end of the season.
“That’s all you can focus on now and the season will take care of itself.”
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