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'Clermont win will kick us on to another level mentally' - Van Graan's derby challenge to Munster

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Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has challenged his side to back up their stunning Champions Cup win in Clermont last weekend by delivering an equally big performance upon their return to PRO14 action against Leinster on Saturday.

Having basked in the glory of their historic achievement in France, Munster's focus has quickly shifted towards Leinster, who will arrive in Thomond Park eager to bring their arch rivals crashing back down to reality again.

One of biggest tasks facing Munster this week is finding a way to channel the emotion of the Clermont victory in the right manner, but with a plethora of changes expected on both sides, there will at least be a freshness to proceedings.

Van Graan has made it clear that he will juggle his squad accordingly over the festive period, as his Ireland internationals are set for some down time following a busy schedule over the last few months.

"It's all about consistency," Van Graan insisted.

"As a group, we really enjoyed that (win). It was a massive challenge and to come back in the way we did. You go through big lows and big highs in this game so when you get a win like that you've got to enjoy it but stick to your process.

"(We were) Back in on Monday morning, looked at what we did well and what we could improve and after our review it is on to the next one and the next one is pretty big as well.

"In terms of rugby specifically you need to have a process and the longer a group are together the better they become.

"You can look in world sports at teams that have been together for a long time and most of them turn out to be pretty successful because they go through different experiences that make them grow.

"In terms of the emotion of Saturday evening, Munster had never beaten Clermont in Clermont so that is a big achievement and to do it in the way that we did.

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"We've got a lot of belief in what we do but to go and win in France the way we did will certainly kick us on to another level mentally.

"I want to say as well that we were by no means perfect but we take what we can out of that game and move on to the next one."

Although Munster may be without some of their front-liners this weekend, one player who Van Graan is hoping to be able to call upon is Dave Kilcoyne.

The Ireland loosehead returned to training today following almost four months on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

"He has had incredible bad luck over the last year or so," Van Graan said.

"He came back from the World Cup and did his calf. Fought his way back and in lockdown got an injury and in the first game after lockdown we lost him and RG Snyman after seven minutes.

"He is only back in team training today so we will take our time with him. Being a prop he needs to scrum properly and get back into contact, get back to full fitness. Once we feel he is ready to play, we will select him over the coming weeks.

"Obviously we have got a big squad and we will use it over the next three weeks.

"The national players will all get a breather somewhere over the next few weeks. We will manage our squad carefully and give the national players their time away.

"Some of them won't be playing in the first one, some in the second and some in the third, so we will manage all those according to our needs.”

Leinster will pose a major challenge on St Stephen's Day, and while Van Graan is not underestimating the scale of the task at hand, he believes his players will be ready for what lies ahead.

"Leinster have been the champions for the last three seasons,” the Munster boss added.

“I think they have won 26 games in-a-row, with nine bonus point victories with four tries over the last few months, so the quality in their squad that we are going to come up against is undeniable.

"For us it is another game in a very long season. We are playing at home against top quality opposition and it is an intepro derby against a very good team. It is a big game for us and one we are looking forward to very much.

"We got Ulster after that and Connacht after that and then back into Europe so all games at this part of the year are big games."


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