Sunday 24 February 2019

'Munster can build their future around Carbery' - Van Graan

Van Graan believes that out-half will be with the Reds for a ‘very long time’

Johann van Graan in thoughtful mood at yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Johann van Graan in thoughtful mood at yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

For many supporters, both of the blue and red persuasion, the idea of Joey Carbery playing for Munster will take a while to sink in, but if the club get their way, they will have plenty of time to get used to it.

Over the course of the last few weeks, during pre-season, Carbery has made an immediate impression on his new coaches and team-mates, and while he is still a few weeks away from making his Munster debut, Johann van Graan is already focused on the bigger picture.

When Carbery signed a two-year contract with Munster at the end of May, some Reds supporters worried that the 22-year-old might only be planning a short stay down south before returning to Leinster whenever Johnny Sexton hangs up his boots.

It was an understandable concern, particularly because Munster need to build their team around an out-half who is capable of helping the province return to their former glories.

"I believe so," Van Graan replied, when asked if Carbery was that man. "I had a very open conversation with Joey. He's a quality individual and that's what I am looking for first and then the player.

"I didn't try and convince him to come to Munster. He was obviously at a quality side who won both competitions - not only in Europe but also domestically. Leinster, I've said enough about them. They are the team of Europe from last season.

Joey Carbery has made an immediate impression on his new coaches and teammates. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery has made an immediate impression on his new coaches and teammates. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"I sold him the dream of Munster and where we want to go. It's something he found appealing and that's why he came to Munster, I believe.

"He signed for two years. He's got a contract the same as every other player at Munster. Hopefully he'll be here for a very, very long time.

"Like all players, it's up to the people at Munster to make sure that people are happy, I said that from day one.

"If players and management are happy, they'll stay at the place where they believe they can live their dreams and I believe he is one of them."

Leinster may still feel aggrieved at having lost a quality young player who has come through their system, and the double whammy comes as his departure vastly improves one of their main rivals, both domestically and in Europe.

Of course Joe Schmidt also played a key role in engineering Carbery's move to Munster but ultimately, it was the player's decision to leave Leinster - he was not forced out the door.

From Carbery's perspective, he will see far more game time in his preferred pivot position, which crucially will help ensure that he plays back-up to Sexton at next year's World Cup.

And Van Graan was quick to rubbish any suggestion that he would look at playing Carbery anywhere other than in the No 10 jersey.

"Most definitely, that's why we got him, as a 10," the Munster head coach insisted.

"We've got multiple options at 10 and that's what I like. He also doesn't come with the expectation of being the starting 10. He knows he needs to earn that position and that was evident from day one in the fitness test.

"Like all of the players, he fought for that single metre right at the end. He can obviously play at 15, but I see him as a 10.

"I think he's got the ability to play flat and deep. I was very impressed with him in that Test in Australia. His decision making, you know, he took a big hit early in that game and he got up. And to me that is the most important thing.

"Like I said, he seems to have a very, very good head on his shoulders. He is a guy that is calm, composed under pressure. He looks you in the eye and even the way he took control of training sessions.

"That being said, the way he fitted in with the other 10s in our squad, I think that's the most important thing at Munster.

"It's the dynamic of the team. The team always comes first. He has slotted in very well in his first few weeks."

As the new season ticks closer, Munster fans are buoyant about the possibilities that lie ahead.

In Carbery, they have an out-half who brings a whole new dynamic to their attack.

As well as that, Van Graan and his coaching staff have had a full pre-season in charge, while the South African has also been hugely successful in terms of the calibre of players that he has brought in this summer.

Like Carbery, Tadhg Beirne will make Munster an altogether different beast in attack, and Van Graan added that the former Scarlet has also wasted little time in making his mark.

"I think we'll definitely shuffle him. He is one guy who has really impressed me since he's come in. The brilliant thing about him is that he can play rugby.

"Whether we slot him at 4, 5, 6 or 8, he just trains. He's got a natural feeling for the game.

"Obviously his lineout ability, his ball-carrying ability, his poaching is well documented but for me, he is an all-round player.

"We'll move him around according to our needs and once he's found his feet in the team, we'll look to settle him down in one position.

"Let me just put it this way, I believe he will thrive at Munster."

Irish Independent

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