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Munster look for scrum-half trio to push Murray after Mathewson departure

Nick McCarthy, Neil Cronin, and Craig Casey are in competition in the scrum-half pecking order.

MUNSTER BOSS JOHANN van Graan wants to see his three Irish scrum-halves push first-choice Conor Murray in the wake of Alby Mathewson’s departure from the province.

Popular Kiwi halfback Mathewson’s 15-month stint with Munster came to an end with a lively replacement appearance against Racing 92 at Thomond Park last weekend, meaning the back-up slot behind Murray is now up for grabs.

nick-mccarthy Nick McCarthy joined Munster from Leinster during the summer. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Head coach van Graan is hopeful that Nick McCarthy, Neil Cronin, and 20-year-old Craig Casey can now step up to the mark.

24-year-old McCarthy has made just three appearances for the province since joining from his native Leinster during the summer, while 26-year-old Cronin has featured twice in the current campaign.

Munster have high hopes for the promising Casey, who has played once off the bench for the senior team this season, and van Graan is keen for the trio to collectively take the opportunity after Mathewson’s departure.

“You have got to back your squad,” said van Graan at yesterday’s Pro14 media day in Cardiff.

“Craig knows which games he is going to get over the next few weeks. I am really looking forward to seeing him play again, I am looking to give him a start pretty soon.

“Nick has been waiting patiently in the ranks and someone like Neily Cronin over the last two years since we brought him from club rugby, every chance he has had, he has used it. 

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neil-cronin Neil Cronin has played twice this season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Last year he was on the bench in round one [of the Champions Cup] against Exeter away, he made his European debut.

“All of those guys are very keen to get into the team and this is their moment now. Between the three of them, they have got to look to push Conor and to really challenge for that number nine jersey.

“Between the three of them, we know over the coming weeks they will get an opportunity to play.”

Van Graan is hoping that Casey, Cronin, and McCarthy can actually apply some pressure to Murray’s status as first-choice in Munster, with Mathewson’s excellent form having kept the heat on the Ireland international.

“It’s said every week by most coaches around the world – you need a squad effort to not only compete in competitions but to win rugby games,” said van Graan. “We emphasise the importance of those eight impact guys every single week because those are the guys who finish the game.

“As an example, our game last weekend against Racing, it’s actually the right guys who come on and make a difference.

craig-casey 20-year-old Craig Casey is highly-rated. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“You can’t just play one player for 80 minutes week-in, week-out. That’s why specifically at nine, the game becomes quicker, more physical demands, you need to make sure that you get fresh legs on.

“It’s certainly imperative from our side that Nick, Craig, and Neily make the step up to not only push for the 23 but really push for the number nine jersey.

“I think we have pretty good depth in all positions that no one is too comfortable in the team. I think we have shown that the guys who are on form, we have picked.”

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