Wednesday 21 November 2018

Van Graan: It's not good enough for Munster to lose all four derbies

"The biggest frustration for me is the injuries and we’ve picked up more again,” Van Graan said. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Four defeats in four interpro derbies - whatever way you dress it up, Munster's record against their Irish rivals this season has been dismal.

Two of those losses have come in the province's last two games, which brought an end to Johann van Graan's unbeaten start since taking over.

Munster need a big response against Connacht this evening (7.45), not only to end their losing streak but also to build momentum before their crunch trip to Paris next weekend.

From that end, they will be relieved to see the Westerners rest their Ireland internationals as Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion all sit out.

Connacht enjoyed a decent festive period. After hammering Ulster, they were unlucky not to catch Leinster on New Year's Day.

Munster on the other hand have failed to put an 80-minute performance together. Their second-half display against Leinster coupled with that of their first in Belfast, would surely have see them pick up their first derby win of the campaign.

"Look, I wasn't here for the first two (interpro defeats)," Van Graan reasoned. "It wasn't in our planning to lose these two games. We want to win every single game that we play in.

"The players spoke very passionately about it this week. It's not good enough for Munster to lose four games against other Irish provinces. That being said, two weeks ago, it all looked pretty rosy for Irish rugby with all four teams winning home and away in Europe.

"I guess the positive is that, it is against quality opposition. Just look at Connacht how they are playing.

"We didn't play good rugby up there (Sportsground) but we are actually playing some very good rugby now. The challenge is to put it together for 80 minutes. But yes, we do need a reaction and we do need to get a positive result."

It is no surprise to see the South African recall plenty of the big guns, including Chris Farrell whose return from the knee injury he picked up on international duty in November, could hardly be better timed.

To add to Munster's woes in recent weeks, injuries to key players as well as Sam Arnold picking up a three-week ban has left Van Graan having to dig deep into the talent pool.

"The biggest frustration for me is the injuries and we've picked up more again," he said.

"We are so far away from picking a consistent team because we seem to get injury after injury after injury. And it's all different kind of injuries.

"The good thing is, I'm seeing a lot of players. The squad said last year that in the league phases, they had a very good year, riding very high on emotion and possibly at the end of the season getting to a semi-final and a final, they ran out of that and couldn't win a trophy.

"The good thing about where we are sitting as a squad, we're sitting pretty well in the PRO14 table, still a long way to go."

Kieran Keane looks to be getting his message across to the Connacht players, but without their key players, this has become an even trickier test.

"The squad is in a really good place at the moment," the Kiwi insisted. "The performance and effort levels from the boys over the past few weeks has been top quality and particularly in the interpro series we have seen some real character."

Munster could do with some of that character in front of their home supporters and with their backs against the wall, expect a big performance.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - S Zebo; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, J Ryan; J Kleyn, D O'Shea; J O'Donoghue, C Oliver, CJ Stander (capt). Reps: M Sherry, J Cronin, S Archer, R Copeland, P O'Mahony, D Williams, B Johnston, D Sweetnam.
Connacht - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, P Ahki, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; P McCabe, T McCartney, C Carey; Q Roux, J Cannon; C Gallagher, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt). Reps: S Delahunt, C O'Donnell, F Bealham, G Thornbury, P Boyle, J Mitchell, C Ronaldson, D Leader.
REF - D Wilkinson (IRFU)

Munster v Connacht,
Live, TG4, 7.45

Irish Independent

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