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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020
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Van Graan eager to put 'massive amount of planning' to work

The Munster head coach is counting down to 27 July and the inter-pros that follow in August.

Image: ©INPHO

DAMIEN DE ALLENDE has been in isolation, RG Snyman hasn’t met all his new team-mates in person either and Roman Salanoa has been eyeing up the cool waters of the Shannon for a swim.sa

As pre-seasons go, this summer is a deep uncharted tract of water for new signings and old stalwarts alike in Munster. And everywhere for that matter.

Head coach Johann van Graan held a video conference call earlier today. No room for his habitual round of handshakes with the assembled media – who knows when that particular feature will make a comeback  - but the South Africa was clearly fully embracing the need to adapt and set up his side as best he can within difficult, necessary, constraints.

“The medical team came to the fore in terms of what they had to go through every day,” said the head coach locking back over the lockdown phase, “because all of a sudden you had a 2km radius and guys trying to keep fit. Some on a farm, some only had their own back yard to train.”

Of course, easing restrictions have allowed players to come together to work out. This week has seen Van Graan’s squad take their first chance with any form of contact training with a hit shield buffering tacklers from carriers as the training group expanded to 14 players.

22 August is the date rugby fans round these parts can look forward to at present, the date when competitive matches are due to resume between the provinces.

For the rugby professionals on this island the date being counted down to is 27 July, when they can – assuming a second wave of Covid-19 is good enough not to swell – resume full training.

To say coaches will be ready for that day is an understatement. Planning has been plentiful. Chances to enact plans, not so much.

The first block we tried to stay away from rugby, focusing more on the training part and the adapt-at-home part for players and management, make everybody comfortable.

“The second block we focused a lot more on rugby specific detail, going through all parts of our game. Not only as coaches, but as groups, leadership groups. Look back at what we did, where we can improve and where we want to take our game to.

“The important thing about that to note is that all those things are very nice over a call like this, but we’ve got to now put that onto the field.

“We’ve got a massive amount of planning that’s now day-to-day. And we literally have three weeks (of pre-season training left) now,” Van Graan added, nodding towards a nine-day break ahead of players before 27 July.

“We are in small pods at training, it was nice to be in a group of 20 this week, getting in some plays and at least getting some contact in against the shield in smaller groups.”

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If you’re searching for positives amid the pandemic, then you might take note of almost-blank injury lists thanks to the elapsed time that allowed players like Tadhg Beirne be on track for the first round of inter-pros.

billy-holland Billy Holland at training last month. Source: ©INPHO

Van Graan however, will remain wary of trying to squeeze too much out of his players as they make their way back into impact sport after a long hiatus.

“The other thing that can’t be left out is that we’ve also got to look after the players’ bodies. They had 15 weeks training on their own. Training on your own is not the same as team training. Trying to sprint flat out on your own is a lot different than sprinting under pressure from five guys next to you.

“We’ve done a lot of research with what happened in previous years with the NFL… we spoke to some coaches in New Zealand to try and predict what injuries we’ll have.

“Unfortunately, teams will have injuries in this time because their bodies are under a lot of strain because of the lockdown.”

Clearly, there have been mental challenges too and the new recruits are an illustration. There is no welcome wagon, group induction or initiation ceremony – not in person at least.

RG Snyman arrived to his new digs and was greeted with ‘a watt bike, weights and a patch of grass’. His fellow World Cup-winner De Allende could only be waved to through his front window until two weeks had elapsed after he arrived from Japan.

As for Salanoa, the Hawaiian-born prop arriving by way of Leinster.

“He’s staying close to the Shannon river and he asked me is it okay if he can swim in there. I said: ‘You’re very welcome but absolutely not, it’s too cold.’”

In a year with so little certainty, at least that advice will hold true.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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