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Van Graan eager for Leinster scalp in final Thomond Park showdown

The Munster head coach says his team will look to play ‘positive rugby’ against Leo Cullen’s side.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN is hoping that his final game in charge of Munster against arch rivals Leinster at Thomond Park will produce the performance and result which will not only close the gap at the top of the URC table, but also give them a perfect springboard into their Champions Cup clashes against Exeter Chiefs.

And he’s confident that a dry ball and firmer pitch will suit both sides and produce a high quality game as both Leinster and themselves look for a big boost heading into the business end of the season.

“I think with the way we’ve played in the last five weeks specifically, we’re looking to keep some ball in hand,” said van Graan, who will head to Bath in three months.

“Obviously they’re exceptional with ball in hand so I think both teams will play positive rugby, both are also the best defensively in Europe, conceding something around 1.4 tries per game.

johann-van-graan Van Graan keeps watch during Munster training this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“And I think the tactical battle, they have kicked a lot in behind us. Depending on who plays 10, they pepper our back three with high balls so it’s getting the balance between the kicking game, attack and defence, and most importantly the breakdown battle.”

Both sides know each other inside out and van Graan expects a game of tight margins in Limerick tomorrow night and knows there will be little between them in the exchanges.

I think both teams have got some phenomenal poachers, ball carriers, I think of someone like Josh van der Flier specifically, who has become one of the very best ball carriers in the game, I would say.

“So great challengers on both sides of the ball, from our side I think someone like Gavin Coombes is carrying exceptionally well. 

“So many battles to look forward to, I think of the centres, I think of the 9s and 10s, the front rows, the back threes, you can literally go all across the park.

“Very exciting from our side and like I said, it’s always great when Leinster play Munster.”

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Munster bounced back from their double loss in South Africa by hammering Benetton Rugby 51-22 at the weekend and van Graan said while there is considerable knowledge about Leinster, they really need to concentrate on what they themselves can produce.

“We have got to focus on ourselves this weekend. We know that we have to be at our best to have a chance to beat them and they’re currently top of the league in the URC, so it’s a very good challenge for us to play against them at Thomond Park,” added the South African. 

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