Sunday 9 December 2018

Van Graan in a tight spot as injuries curtail his options

Head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Munster coach Johann van Graan's quest to dethrone the kings of Europe in their own castle might be undermined by a crisis at tighthead prop.

After revealing that two of his main assets there were still struggling with injury problems, he was dealt a cruel blow later in the afternoon with confirmation that Stephen Archer must undergo surgery.

The prop, who has been in fine form this season, sustained a pec muscle injury during the Guinness PRO14 quarter-final victory against Edinburgh and, with Brian Scott and John Ryan already unavailable, Ciaran Parker had to put in a substantial shift.

Scott (ribs) and Ryan (back) remain doubtful for Saturday's trip to the RDS while hooker Niall Scannell (AC joint) is also treading carefully upon his return to injury.

Andrew Conway, concussed during the Edinburgh win, is still undergoing Return to Play protocols while Duncan Williams, who was concussed a week earlier when his side beat Ulster, is also still being monitored.

Scott had recovered since the win against Edinburgh but suffered a rib injury in training last week.


There is some hope - some would say wild optimism - that South African duo Jaco Taute and Chris Cloete may become available, although their long lay-offs would appear to limit their chances.

Cloete fractured an arm in February and although he did return to the field yesterday, no contact was permitted. Taute has been out for six months since damaging knee ligaments in October.

Van Graan also has to decide whether he will persist with the significant shift in selection that saw JJ Hanrahan supplant Ian Keatley at out-half against Edinburgh although the Kerryman, like his side, was fitful in attack.

"We have a saying, 'If you want to be king, you have got to go and beat the king in his castle,'" said Van Graan.

"Leinster are the kings at this stage so as I say this is a good opportunity to go and measure ourselves against the best.

"I would have loved to have Jaco and Chris for a few weeks before to at least play a game. If we select them, they will be big calls.

"It's nice to have them back on the field but both are coming off pretty serious injuries so it does take some time to get back into the game.

"Jaco has been out with a serious injury for a very long time. He has only done some limited training.

"It would have been great to have them four weeks ago but it's great to have them back and we will enjoy that during the week."

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