Wednesday 17 October 2018

'We’ve got a lot of world class players in our back three' - Johann van Grann expects Simon Zebo to make bench impact

21 April 2018; Simon Zebo and head coach Johann van Graan during the Munster Rugby Captain's Run at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
21 April 2018; Simon Zebo and head coach Johann van Graan during the Munster Rugby Captain's Run at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Bordeaux

Munster coach Johann van Graan is expecting Simon Zebo to make an impact off the bench when he is called on in Bordeaux tomorrow.

The South African’s decision to drop the winger was the biggest call of his team selection ahead of the clash with Racing 92 at a stifling hot Stade Chaban-Delmas, but the coach isexpecting him to deliver.

The 28-year-old was the odd man out at Munster’s captain’s run in France this evening, wearing a black jersey and green bib with the rest of the squad taking the pitch in orange shirts.

And his coach reckons he will play his part when introduced.

“We’ve got a lot of world class players in our back three,” van Graan said.

“Keith Earls is back, Alex Wooton and Simon Zebo. Darren Sweetman didn’t make the 23. Calvin Nash is playing some good rugby.

“The plan that we have about finishing this game, Racing have quality on their bench, you have to have subs coming on and that’s the way you win.”

With temperatures expected to hit 28 degrees come kick-off, van Graan believes the entire replacements bench will make an impact.

“Ever since the January break, we've put a lot of emphaiss on selecting a very strong bench,” he said.

“We've alternated certain players into those positions, you only have to look at the last four weeks against Toulon, Cheetahs and Kings what our bench did.

“We don't like to call it a bench, we like to call it impact players and they've been incredible in the scrum in terms of ball-carrying ability, because at the end of the game when you need special moments like Andrew (Conway) against Toulon you need ball-carriers and players who can make good decisions especially in your key positions… It's pretty crucial, it's two quality sides going out there tomorrow so our impact will be huge for us.”

After Racing coach Laurent Travers called for water-breaks to be introduced, van Graan said he would welcome the idea.

And he believes the heat will be a major issue for both teams.

“I think it will be a factor,” he said.

“It’s really hot out there, even hotter than we anticipated so that will definitely be a challenge in tomorrow’s game. A lot of humidity, the ball will be sweaty and wet as well.”

Zebo, of course, will join Racing at the end of this season and so they know all about his threat.

And Travers is fully expecting him to have a role to play.

"I won't make a comment on the opposition team and how they are organised, it's the coach's choice and if he has put in Simon Zebo as a substitute then he's planning something in his mind,” he said.

"We know the talent of Simon Zebo and he has a reason to put him on the bench. There's always a purpose.

"We know today it's a 23 man squad planned something specific with that.”

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