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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 26 January, 2020
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Munster's World Cup players to miss Leinster clash at Thomond Park

Johann van Graan’s squad will be tested in the next three Pro14 inter-pro derbies.

MUNSTER WILL BE without their Ireland stars who featured at the World Cup against Leinster in their inter-provincial clash at Thomond Park on 28 December. 

Johann van Graan’s side will play in front of a sold-out crowd at the Limerick venue but will be shorn of many of their biggest names, with Ireland’s World Cup players required to rest for two consecutive weekends over the upcoming festive run of inter-pro derbies.

Munster visit Connacht in the Pro14 this Saturday before hosting Leinster on Saturday 28 December and then traveling to Ulster on Friday 3 January.

cj-stander-dejected-after-the-game Munster came up short against Saracens on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Van Graan’s Ireland contingent can essentially only play in one of the three derbies as their game time is managed by the IRFU after featuring in the World Cup in Japan in September and October.

“They can only play one of the three games and they have to rest most of the time for two weeks consecutively,” said van Graan after Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Saracens on Saturday.

“That’s the thing about sending our guys to the World Cup, they’re going to be out for most of these three weeks, and then if you add those injuries.

 “Look, I’m not going to make any excuses, that’s just the way it is. We’re facing Connacht away and we’re facing Ulster away, and we’re facing Leinster at home, so it is going to be a huge challenge on our squad and our academy.

 “We’ve got to plan for it and we’ve just got to throw guys in over the next three weeks and they’ve got to accept the challenge that lies ahead.”

The injuries that van Graan referred to are the losses of Peter O’Mahony just before the Saracens game with a groin issue, then a very worrying ankle injury for Tadhg Beirne, a leg issue for tighthead John Ryan, and a head injury for Andrew Conway during the game.

With the likes of Joey Carbery, Dave Kilcoyne, Tyler Bleyendaal, Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, and Darren Sweetnam already sidelined through injury, Munster’s squad could be truly stretched in the coming weeks.

While the inter-pro period is crucial, Munster will also have their European campaign in the back of their minds, with the visit to Racing 92 on Sunday 12 January now amounting to what van Graan said is a “knock-out” game.

conor-murray-is-tackled-by-ben-earl-and-vincent-koch Conor Murray and co. will miss the Leinster game. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster simply have to win and van Graan is hopeful the likes of Carbery will be fully up and running by that stage, providing his team with a big boost.

“Yeah, look, massive,” said van Graan of the effect Carbery’s return could have. “Dave Kilcoyne, Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, Joey, Tyler Bleyendaal – you know, pretty big names for us that’s currently unavailable and if you add to that Pete, Tadhg, John Ryan, and Andrew Conway. 

“You know, three weeks to come, it would be great to have Joey available. To be fair to JJ [Hanrahan], he played really well again tonight. Unfortunate that the kick went to the left but that’s just the margins in this game of ours.”

Van Graan is anticipating another different challenge in Paris next month after a brutally physical encounter at Allianz Park on Saturday against Saracens ended in disappointment.

“I think a very different game,” said van Graan of playing at the indoor Paris La Defense Arena.

“It will feel like we’re going to play in the summer again. You know, with the roof above it takes away all conditions so we’ll have to go and prepare in ways to make sure we adapt to that pitch and the humidity inside of that stadium.

“That’s the challenge in front of us. Once this pool came out everybody said it’s the pool of death. There’s still three sides in this battle and it’s possibly some of the three top sides in Europe if you look at the last three years.

“So this is going to be a massive challenge.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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