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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 22 October 2020

Munster coach hails players after week of upheaval - 'It’s very tough to manage it but I think we all adapted'

Munster defeated Edinburgh after a week of upheaval for the province.

MUNSTER COACH JOHANN van Graan praised his side’s tenacity to turn defeat into victory for the second week in a row after a week of upheaval in the province.

conor-murray-celebrates-with-tadgh-beirne-after-cj-stander-scores-a-try Conor Murray celebrates with Tadgh Beirne after CJ Stander scores a try for Munster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Last week’s win last gasp away to Scarlets was followed by two positive Covid-19 test in the squad, which meant much of the province’s preparation was done remotely since last Monday.

The coach admitted there were plenty of headaches as he tried to identify which players would be available for the visit of Edinburgh, but he was delighted with the squad’s ability to adapt and prepare for a key Conference B tussle.

“It’s very tough to manage it but I think we all adapted and that’s one of the goals we set as a group for the year ahead because nobody knows what is going to happen,” said van Graan.

richard-cockerill-with-johann-van-graan Richard Cockerill and Johann Van Graan before the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We had to adapt from Monday evening onwards and we kept everyone informed. We hoped to have gone back on Thursday morning but some of the tests were delayed.

“It was the first time ever I announced a team over Microsoft Teams but we had that at 7:30 on Thursday evening because that was only when we knew that certain guys were unavailable.

“All credit to the staff and the players, we only had one captain’s run on Friday morning and a brilliant result against a top quality side, the guys that won the group last season.”

For much of this game it seemed that Munster would lose at home to Edinburgh for the second season in a row. The Scottish side topped Munster’s pool last season thanks to their better winning rate, and they looked likely winners again thanks to first half tries from Mark Bennett and WP Nel.

Ben Healy was Munster’s hero last week and his six penalties kept them in touch again this time, but Stander’s late try levelled matters three minutes from the end, before Healy again nailed the winning kick for his side with his conversion from the right.

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ben-healy-kicks-the-winning-conversion Ben Healy kicks the winning conversion. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re very happy about that win, a real testament to our fitness. We said this game would go right down to the wire with the quality opposition we faced tonight,” said van Graan.

“And a special mention to Denis Logan our head of athletic performance, this was his last game for Munster Rugby and he’s created a very fit team with his team so very glad about that 80-minute performance.”

Munster lost Tommy O’Donnell early in the first half to a failed head injury assessment, but with Healy and player of the match Craig Casey keeping their side ticking they managed to stay in touch.

A yellow card for Jaco van der Walt helped Munster’s cause in the second half, but there was also some heroic defensive plays, including a try saving effort from Andrew Conway and Rhys Marshall, which denied George Taylor.

“It was certainly a massive moment in the game… a phenomenal tackle (from Conway) and Rhys Marshall also working back and getting that turnover. That’s the small margins in these games

“It was a real squad effort this week and great for lads to use their opportunities.

“It wasn’t perfect from the two of them [Healy and Casey] but in terms of composure, specifically from Ben to come back and again slot that kick, very well done against a very good Edinburgh side.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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John Fallon

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