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Van Graan plans to reintroduce Zebo and tinker with his line-up over the next month

Necessity to get game-time into players who have missed out on top-level rugby is priority now for Munster head coach.

Zebo is set to get game-time in next month
Zebo is set to get game-time in next month
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

AFTER THE FAMINE, the feast. Seven weeks without a game have been followed by two in six days and now a run that will see Munster play three inter-pros and two more Champions Cup games.

For some, it’s needed. On Saturday after their 19-13 win over Castres, head coach Johann Van Graan made a point about their recent disrupted schedule, highlighting how Mike Healy and Simon Zebo haven’t played a game since mid-October. Across the last month, their squad has been divided into three, some stuck in South Africa, some in isolation in Limerick, the rest training with the academy boys at their UL base.

“The last few weeks have taken a big emotional toll and just the human side of it, to hopefully be all together in the HPC on Tuesday will be good for everybody to meet each other,” said van Graan. “At the end of the day this is a team sport and we’re a proud club in terms of how we look after its people and Munster have looked after its people very well over the last few weeks.

“It’s important that we get to Tuesday morning and hopefully we’ll all be in a room together and can’t wait for that.

“Some guys that will play next Sunday wouldn’t have played for a very long time. We’re going to keep rotating the squad; we’ve got to get some guys back on to the pitch.

“There are six games left in this block so yes, it’s a different challenge. We haven’t been together, the three groups, but we’ve got Christmas Eve plus Christmas Day leading into a game and then it’s Munster versus Leinster which is always a massive day in our calendar.

“I’ve said it before, that’s brilliant for Irish rugby. Unfortunately we won’t have a packed and a sold-out Thomond Park but that’s currently the way life works and everybody in rugby is in this together and hopefully we’ll get through on the other side.”

munster-and-castres-play-in-front-of-a-large-crowd-at-thomand-park Saturday's large crowd will be replaced by a reduced capacity this weekend. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Tinkering with his squad over this period is inevitable.

Van Graan said: “Guys need to play. The positive is we’ve got such a good squad that we’ve got a brilliant back three. It’s about finding the balance between continuity and giving guys some games.

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“Obviously we can only play one game a week so we will definitely rotate the squad over the next three weeks – Leinster, Connacht and Ulster – and hopefully after that we will be back to full strength against Castres in the middle of January.”

Their week begins today with a review of Saturday’s win. But by Friday they will be downing tools.

“We’ll finish our training on the morning of Christmas Eve. From my point of view in the last five years family is incredibly important so I want guys to go to their homes, to their families, spend Christmas Eve there, spend Christmas Day there.

“We play at 7.30 on the 26th, the players have done this many, many times, so the most important thing is to spend time over Christmas with your family. We’ll rejoin on the Sunday and then it’s a great event to play Leinster.”

Originally published at 07.39

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Garry Doyle

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