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'The belief has never changed' - Munster look to build on positive start to Rainbow Cup

Johann van Graan says his team are viewing the competition as a clean slate.

Munster scrum-half Conor Murray scored two tries against Leinster.
Munster scrum-half Conor Murray scored two tries against Leinster.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

NOT EVERYONE HAS embraced the dawn of the Rainbow Cup, but after an opening weekend which saw Munster end their six-game losing run against Leinster, one imagines Johann van Graan and Co will have wholeheartedly welcomed this squeezed-in, patchwork tournament.

They are not a club in a position to scoff at silverware, even if we don’t yet know what that silverware looks like or what exactly is required to win it.

For Munster, it’s an opportunity to end a decade-long trophy drought. Speaking after Saturday’s 27-3 win at the RDS, Van Graan explained that while teams like Leinster and Ulster are fighting on two fronts, Munster are viewing this competition as a clean slate after their Champions Cup and Pro14 title hopes were squashed by Toulouse and Leinster just a few short weeks ago.

“We kind of took stock after the Toulouse and the Leinster defeats and saw this as the start of a new season, because it’s a totally new competition for us,” Van Graan said.

“To be honest we haven’t looked at a lot of different scenarios (regarding how the Rainbow Cup will play out). The only thing we know is the three inter-pros, and tonight was a big night for us as a club. 

“We said that we can’t control what happened in that (Pro14) final and in the Toulouse game, what we can control is what happens tonight, and to come away from here with a win like this, that’s pretty important for us.”

The win is certainly more significant to Munster than the defeat is to Leinster, who have bigger prizes on their mind.

shane-daly-is-tackled-by-ryan-baird Shane Daly is tackled by Ryan Baird. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Yet for Munster the result at least means nobody is talking about seven losses in a row to the Pro14 champions. No matter the nature of the competition, that in itself represents a worthwhile evening’s work.

“We didn’t spend a lot of time on the six defeats in a row,” Van Graan added.

“We looked at what could we do better and I felt it was a very good performance. We haven’t won here as a club for a long time so this was an important game for us.

“The belief has never changed, in fact the belief only grew after the (Pro14) final and you know, we came close a few times and I’ll take a three tries to zero win in the RDS any day of the week.” 

Munster were nowhere near their best but had the quality to see off a Leinster side which contained a sprinkling of youth mixed in with some more experienced senior players.

At times their handling was desperately disappointing, particularly given it was a crisp, dry night for rugby, but after producing such a limp display in the Pro14 final Van Graan will take heart from the fight his team brought this time out, as well as their impressive linespeed and the workrate displayed around the breakdown, even if that ferocity threatened to tip their discipline over the edge on occasion.

Stephen Archer received a yellow card after dangerously trampling over the torso of James Ryan, while Jack O’Donoghue might have thought he would follow after a thunderous clearout on Ed Byrne.

In the end, a rather tame looking Leinster failed to match that intensity and Munster boarded the bus home with the strange feeling that they could have won by even more.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, watching on from the stands, will have enjoyed the physicality Chris Farrell brought in midfield, while Conor Murray delivered a two-try performance which included plenty of invention on the ball. 

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garry-ringrose-and-dave-kearney-tackle-chris-farrell Chris Farrell brought huge physicality for Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Joey Carbery took another positive step on his comeback trail, kicking 10 points and varying his play throughout.

Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony got through a massive amount of work around the breakdown and produced big interventions to kill any threat of Leinster building momentum. 

“We worked on quite a few parts of our game over the last two weeks and we had some good moments out there,” Van Graan added.

“Defensively I thought the breakdown was a real battle and one of the more pleasing things is we managed a lot more territory in this game, you know, we had quite a few set-pieces in their 22.

“I guess the work-on is the one or two chances that we left out there, it would have been nice to get the fourth try there right at the end but a lot to work on and who knows what the rest of Rainbow Cup holds, but what we currently know is there’s two more interpros coming against Ulster and Connacht and we’ll look forward to that.

“But we’ll enjoy this win and then we’ll move on again.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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