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Van Graan looks forward to new coaches bringing fresh ideas to Munster

Stephen Larkham will arrive in Limerick next month, while Graham Rowntree will link up with the province after the World Cup.

JOHANN VAN GRAAN says he is relishing the opportunity to welcome two new coaches to his Munster backroom team this summer, as the southern province’s pre-season preparations move through the gears.

Van Graan returned from his summer break last week after the Munster strength and conditioning staff oversaw the first block of fitness testing and screening at their University of Limerick base.

Johann van Graan Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Along with defence coach JP Ferreira, the Munster head coach is now back in harness ahead of the 2019/20 season, but new additions Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree have yet to link up with the province.

Former Wallaby Larkham, appointed Munster’s senior coach, will arrive in Limerick after the first block of four-week training, while Rowntree, currently with the Georgian national team, will report for duty once his World Cup commitments are finished. 

For now, van Graan is working with a group of 25 players — a mix of senior pros and academy members — as they combine on-field skills work with sessions in the gym.  

“I’m really looking forward to Graham and Stephen coming in,” the South African said.

“Stephen will be coming in for the second block [of pre-season]. He was such a fantastic player and is a brilliant human being. I think he’ll fit really well with Munster and bring in one or two fresh ideas.

“I’ve known Graham for quite a long time. As soon as he’s finished with Georgia, he’ll join us. He’ll bring something different. He’s a fantastic guy, a typical Leicester forward who knows how to get a pack going. I’m really excited to get Graham and Stephen in.”

With 15 players, including uncapped duo Jean Kleyn and Mike Haley, part of Ireland’s World Cup training squad, van Graan is enjoying the chance to work closely with a number of Munster’s younger players, including U20 Grand Slam winner Jake Flannery.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity to get all of the academy lads in with the senior guys that are left,” he continued. “At this stage, we’re training with 25 players which is great to have a smaller group and to really get the know the players.

Jake Flannery Jake Flannery is training with the Munster senior squad. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We function in a performance world and you’ve got to be at your best when your best is required and your best is required every single day. We’re not playing a game for over two months so it’s vitally important to enjoy the pre-season but also grow every single day.”

As the new season will kick off later than usual due to the World Cup, teams will have more time to fine-tune their preparations for the campaign ahead, with Munster this week confirming September friendlies against London Irish, at Musgrave Park, and Connacht in Galway. 

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Van Graan added: “This week we’re on the field three times, next week we’ll be on the field four times and that’ll increase. Once we’re in the second block, the main focus will be on rugby and the load of rugby.

“Spending time across all parts of the game — your attack, your defence, your kicking game, your breakdown, your contact skills, your broken-field attack and defence and all the individual parts of the game.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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