Tuesday 16 July 2019

Johann van Graan hoping to draft Paul O'Connell into Reds' set-up

Munster boss wants ex-skipper ‘to be involved’ with current squad

New Ireland U-20s assistant coach Paul O’Connell at Donnybrook yesterday ahead of their friendly match against Leinster A Photo: Sportsfile
New Ireland U-20s assistant coach Paul O’Connell at Donnybrook yesterday ahead of their friendly match against Leinster A Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Johann Van Graan is hopeful that Paul O'Connell will soon have an influence on the current Munster set-up as the former captain took his latest step on the coaching ladder by joining the Ireland U-20s as an assistant coach.

Buoyed by the confirmation that CJ Stander has signed a new three-year contract, which is believed to be worth a basic salary in the region of €440,000, Van Graan revealed that he had spoken to O'Connell about a variety of subjects, including him getting involved with Munster.

O'Connell was in the coaching box with the U-20s for the first time yesterday and Van Graan insisted that he will remain in regular contact with him.

"Paul and I had a coffee last week, and had a fantastic chat about rugby, about Munster, about where he wants to go as a coach, about certain ways he can contribute to the current team," the Reds' head coach said.

"Possibly in the future, when the time is right, he might get involved or he might not. He wants to take it day by day.

Opportunity

"Coaching is definitely not something you do in a week. It's a long-term thing so I am so glad he gets the opportunity to take the next step. He was with the Academy last year and now he is with the U-20s.

"We will keep in constant contact. I value his opinion. I asked him so many questions. He was so honest in the way he answered. He loves Munster and in whatever way he will be involved in the future."

Stander, meanwhile, ended speculation surrounding his long-term future by penning a three-year extension, which delighted his compatriot.

"It's a massive boost," Van Graan enthused. "He's a world-class player and a fantastic individual. I coached CJ when he was a junior at the Bulls. I coached him at Super Rugby. He's grown as a man, as a husband, and as a rugby player.

"He puts his body on the line every weekend. He delivered a fantastic performance on Sunday evening. It was 19 ball carries again. That final steal to give us the penalty that Keats kicked.

"To know that he is going to be at Munster for the next three years is great. Not only as a player but in a leadership position. He has got big dreams to go to the World Cup if he gets selected.

"If you want to be successful as a team you need big players available in the big games, and to have him available to us is great."

Van Graan also ruled out the possibility of JJ Hanrahan moving to Ulster on loan next month as Les Kiss looks to find a replacement for Christian Lealiifano, who will return to Australia after the Champions Cup pool stages.

"I am not aware of any request at this stage," he added. "JJ is very much part of our plans. He is a quality player and will feature over the next 11 days. He is part of our 23 and is important to us."

Irish Independent

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