Monday 14 October 2019

Upbeat Van Graan backs Murray and Carbery to click again

Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Murrayfield was the scene of Joey Carbery and Conor Murray's last appearance as a pairing and it all went rather well.

Although Ireland's win over Scotland was not universally well received, it proved to be one of the high points of the campaign to date and the Munster half-backs played leading roles in the result.

Both leave the international arena and link up with the province with different frustrations; Murray has yet to hit his top form and Carbery has been out since that win in Edinburgh with a hamstring issue.

Johann van Graan was a guest of the Irish coaching ticket at Scottish rugby's headquarters last month and enjoyed his visit.

On Saturday, he returns to the venue for the biggest game of his Munster team's season.

He is confident Carbery will be fit for the last-eight clash and so it looks likely that he'll return to the fray alongside Murrray.

"I believe he'll be ready to go on Saturday," Van Graan said. "I'm not going to wait until the last minute to make this decision because (it is) a hamstring injury and we're not going to take any risks. He's got to come through training today and tomorrow.

"He believes he's ready, I believe he's going to be ready and he wants to play. We did a lot of planning last week off-field with him and if he comes through training I believe he'll be ready to start on Saturday.

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"He's been one of our best players the whole season, not only his goal-kicking but his presence and his decision-making. He has been on form throughout the whole year, he's one of those players who seems to thrive on the big stage and Saturday certainly is a big stage."

Injury has limited Murray and Carbery to three starts as a partnership to go with their outing with Ireland in Australia last summer, but Van Graan believes they can pull it together on Saturday.

And he believes his scrum-half is close to rediscovering his best form.

"I'd love for them to have played every single week together, but that's rugby. You have got to adapt," he said of his half-backs.

"What I would say is that the last two games they were available for Munster, against Gloucester and Exeter, I thought they were very good together and specifically looking at an away performance I think that Gloucester game, they were fantastic in all areas.

"Sometimes you have to revisit the past to look at where you've been before, but the most important thing is that we as a squad are looking forward and we're looking forward to Saturday afternoon.

"We've got big dreams, but to keep those dreams alive we have got to perform on Saturday afternoon against quality opposition playing really good rugby on home turf.

"I met up with Conor a week ago and went through his game. He'll be the first to say he wants to improve every single week.

"He took a mental break and was really refreshed when he walked in here this morning and he's really looking forward to the challenge.

"If you look at Edinburgh, they've got a very good kicking game... we've got a good kicking game and he's a central figure in that.

"It's getting the plans in place, getting individual plans in place and going out onto the pitch and train it.

"I don't read all the criticism and all the positives. All I know is that Conor is a world-class player. He wants to be the best in the business and he'll work every single day as much as he can to be at his best on Saturday. For me, it's only about what's going to happen this week.

"We've got three days of training, which he'll take a central part in, and I'm going to back him to have a brilliant performance."

Irish Independent

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