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'We'll have to look at squad rotation over the coming weeks' - Munster's Van Graan

The southern province are still fighting on two fronts.

Munster enjoyed an excellent win over Exeter.
Munster enjoyed an excellent win over Exeter.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE BIG GAMES keep on coming for Munster, with an absolutely crucial United Rugby Championship clash against Ulster this Friday.

Fresh from their stirring Champions Cup victory over Exeter, Johann van Graan’s men will have a bounce in their step, but this weekend’s challenge is a big one.

A win for Munster at Kingspan Stadium could send them to second place in the table depending on how Glasgow fare away to the Stormers.

But a defeat in Belfast could even leave Munster clinging onto their place in the play-off spots. The Stormers, Sharks, Edinburgh, and Bulls are all hovering behind them in the table right now.

With three regular-season rounds remaining in the URC, things have really heated up.

“That’s what the URC needed in terms of competition,” said van Graan this afternoon.

“The South African teams are bringing that. Thre’s a logjam from positions two to eight at this stage, so every point you can gather every week is important. There are three rounds to go and it’ll be tight until the end.”

While van Graan acknowledged that momentum is important in rugby, he underlined that Friday is a different challenge to the one Munster successfully overcame against Exeter.

It will be intriguing to see how much continuity there is in van Graan’s team selection, given that the Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse is just three weekends away.

johann-van-graan Van Graan at Munster training today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Munster boss hinted that there will be changes as Munster look to continue their fight on both fronts.

“We’ll look after the players week-on-week, we’ve still got a lot of bumps and bruises,” said van Graan. 

“That was one of the more physical games we’ve been involved in over the years, similar to the other Exeter one at Thomond Park three years ago. We’ll wait on a few guys. In terms of national players, we’ll look after them as the weeks go.

“We’re on a long run of games since the Dragons game [in early March] and going to South Africa [last month too].

“We’ll have to look at squad rotation over the coming weeks. We’ve got these two games, Ulster and Cardiff [in the URC], then Toulouse.

“There’s a potential [Champions Cup] semi-final after that, then we have Leinster in the Aviva [in the URC] and then if you make it to the knock-out games, there’s still a long run of games so we’ll look after our squad.”

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Whatever about his own team, van Graan is expecting a serious test from Dan McFarland’s Ulster.

They were knocked out of the Champions Cup by Toulouse last weekend and will now throw everything they have at the URC.

munsters-craig-casey Craig Casey will be hoping for a start against Ulster.

“They’re an all-round side,” said van Graan. “Their maul is currently one of the very best in the game, they maul the ball exceptionally well.

“Their kicking game off nine and 10, they vary it so well, they really put you under pressure, just look at the Toulouse game to see good examples of that

“Someone like Stuart McCloskey getting them over the gainline, specifically close to the line.

“You need an all-round game to beat them, your discipline needs to be top-notch, and they’re a side that will be there in the end of the URC. We’ll have to deliver a really good performance on Friday.”

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