Saturday 15 December 2018

Van Graan knows lifting Munster will be difficult

Munster coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Munster coach Johann van Graan said he knows it will be difficult for them to bounce back from their Champions Cup exit to Racing 92 and make an assault on the Guinness PRO14 crown.

But he is confident that they have the temperament to do that and bid for their first silverware since lifting the league crown in 2011.

However, history is not on his side with Munster, who have now lost six European semi-finals since lifting their second Heineken Cup in 2008, having only once lifted the league crown after going out in the last four in Europe.

That came in 2009 in the final season before the play-offs were introduced in the league when Munster put the disappointment of losing the Heineken Cup semi-final to Leinster behind them by holding on at the top of the table for their second league crown.

"Mentally it will be very difficult to get guys fully back up," said Van Graan after the team returned to training in Limerick yesterday. "I won't beat about the bush on that. Ever since I came here, I saw how much Munster are in love with European rugby, what it means to the players, the management team and the supporters.

dream "It will be very difficult. The good thing is that the team spoke about it this morning and said we need to move on. We had a dream of winning both trophies, unfortunately one is out of our hands and there's one still to go. It's all about Ulster this week and then you've got to go to a quarter-final to get to a semi-final.

"As a squad we've got to face what went wrong. As a management staff and players, I believe we did that this morning and now we're back to the training field and go forward again."

With the concession of three tries by the end of the opening quarter, the review pointed to the deficiencies before the break in failing to turn opportunities into scores as crucial.

"Everybody talks about the first 20 minutes but it was the 30 to 40 minutes, that's what was discussed at half-time as well. We actually got into the game with opportunities to score five or six tries one metre out ... you've got to give credit to the opposition for the way they stopped it but had our option-taking been better, we could have possibly scored but we didn't," added Van Graan.

Tighthead prop John Ryan (back) and hooker Niall Scannell (AC joint) are doubtful for Saturday's game.

Meanwhile, former Irish U-20 out-half Bill Johnston, whose brother David is moving to Ealing Trailfinders, has signed a two-year contract extension, ending speculation that he might be moving to Connacht.

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