Monday 20 August 2018

Van Graan not willing to reveal his hand for tests ahead

Munster coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Munster were never likely to field a first-choice team against Ulster, but even still, by making 14 changes, Johann van Graan has not revealed his full hand before a potential quarter-final meeting back in Limerick.

For Ulster, this is very much a do-or-die clash and given the troubles they have had, to be in with a shout of making the play-offs and indeed qualifying for next season's Champions Cup has to be seen as a positive.

The decision to add quarter-finals into the Guinness PRO14 mix has ensured that as we enter the final regular round, there is still plenty left to play for.

Three weeks ago, Ulster trailed Edinburgh by 13 points, and now they could overtake them in the table.

Gap The gap is now back to four points, and with Edinburgh hosting Conference A leaders, Glasgow, Ulster could really do with Dave Rennie's men lending them a helping hand by beating their Scottish rivals.

If Glasgow do manage to see off Edinburgh and deny them a bonus point, and if Ulster leave Thomond Park with a bonus-point win of their own, they would leapfrog the Scots into third place.

Simply put, nothing less than a five-pointer will suffice for Ulster, if they are to make the PRO14 quarter-final.

If that scenario doesn't materialise, Ulster are facing the prospect of playing the Ospreys in Belfast, with the winner earning qualification for the Champions Cup.

Munster on the other hand, know that they cannot catch Glasgow, nor can they be overtaken by the Cheetahs, so safe in the knowledge that second place is secured, Van Graan has not hesitated in ringing the changes.

From that end, Munster know that they will play either Ulster, Edinburgh or the Scarlets, who could drop to third if they lose to the Dragons, in their quarter-final clash at home.

Should the Reds come through that last-eight meeting, they would then play Leinster in Dublin in the semi-final, with Glasgow on the other side of the draw.

Irish Independent

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