Tuesday 20 August 2019

Van Graan open to freshening up his Munster backroom team

2022 Vision: Johann van Graan has pledged his commitment to the Reds’ cause for an additonal two years. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
2022 Vision: Johann van Graan has pledged his commitment to the Reds’ cause for an additonal two years. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Munster coach Johann van Graan says that securing his backroom team is now his priority after committing to the province for the next three years.

And with Van Graan saying he remains open to introducing new faces to his coaching ticket, it's inevitable that speculation will include former players such as Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara being added to the Munster management team.

Van Graan yesterday signed a two-year extension to his Munster deal to keep him at the province until the end of the 2021/2022 season, but the futures of assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones remain unclear.

Flannery is Munster's forwards and scrum coach, while Jones is backline and attack coach, and the duo's contracts are scheduled to finish at the end of this season. Defence coach JP Ferreira is already signed up until 2020.

"I think we have worked very well together, Jerry and JP and Felix and I. That will be one of the next steps in the process. As soon as we have got something to announce we will do that," said Van Graan.

Improving

"We're also looking forward to the future, we need to keep improving and we need to keep evolving. Hopefully in the next few years we can keep continuity, number one, but also bring in people that can add value.

"I think it's one of the things of professional sport, you can't keep in the same spot too long because other teams will pass you. You have just got to keep moving forward.

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"There is a lot of possibilities down the line, I think the first important thing for Munster Rugby was to decide who their coach was going to be for the next few years. We'll look towards the future now."

With Joey Carbery "highly unlikely" to feature against Saracens in the Champions Cup in 11 days' time, the coach has plenty of selection quandaries to mull over.

On a bright note, he says Jean Kleyn (side) and Peter O'Mahony (shoulder) are not concerns, while Jack O'Donoghue has recovered from his head injury.

"Jean is one of those guys that gets a lot of shots and gives a lot of shots. It's nothing serious, just a few bumps and bruises on his side. Peter will train this afternoon so he's fine."

With two PRO14 games remaining Munster still trail Glasgow Warriors by three points in Conference A but they will hope that Leinster can end the Scottish side's six-game winning streak in the league this week, while Munster could then reclaim top spot with victory away to Benetton.

Van Graan has already confirmed that IRFU player welfare protocols dictate that he must rest some of his players for Friday's trip to Treviso, but he would not confirm which players are available to him.

However, Conor Murray, CJ Stander, O'Mahony, Kleyn and Dave Kilcoyne could be among those to miss out this weekend as they seek to hit their European semi-final in peak condition.

"We will give a lot of that info on Thursday. We will just manage the guys through the week, also see how the guys travelled back, see who is available, who needs to rest.

"Some guys I have already sent away, but we will give some more information later in the week. It is like building a puzzle isn't it? I learned a lot of lessons from last season. If you guys remember just the way the fixtures fell, we needed to go to South Africa after the Toulon game, played the Kings and Cheetahs, flew back, had two days of training and then had to fly to Bordeaux and play against Racing.

"So whilst having to play guys on the one hand, you also have to rest certain guys up, you have protocols within Irish rugby that we want to keep the guys fresh.

"Benetton have been one of 'the' teams of the PRO14, but you also want to perform in Europe. You only get one shot at a semi-final, so it is a real balancing act."

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