Wednesday 21 February 2018

Van Graan prepared for fight to keep O'Mahony

Farrell drafted in as Munster search for defence coach

New Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
New Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor​

New Munster coach Johann van Graan has vowed to do everything he can to retain the services of Peter O'Mahony.

The South African gave his first press conference since taking over from Rassie Erasmus yesterday and faced questions about the prospect of losing his captain, who has rejected an IRFU contract and is in negotiations with clubs in France and England.

Negotiations between O'Mahony's agent Conor Ridge and union performance director David Nucifora are ongoing as they look to reach an agreement that will keep the flanker in Ireland for the next three years.

They currently do not see eye to eye and Van Graan is hoping to play a role in ensuring the skipper remains at Thomond Park and does not follow Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan abroad.

"I haven't spoken to Pete one on one yet, he's currently contracted to the IRFU until the end of the season," he said.

"He's been offered a contract extension with some added benefits and I believe it's in the interest of Munster Rugby and of the IRFU to keep him at Munster and in Ireland.

Negotiations between O’Mahony’s agent Conor Ridge and union performance director David Nucifora are ongoing
Negotiations between O’Mahony’s agent Conor Ridge and union performance director David Nucifora are ongoing

"Luckily, that's hopefully not a done deal (that he's leaving).

"He stands for so much more, he's a Munster man through and through and I'm looking forward to having that discussion.

"All the clubs in the world are concerned about losing players to England and France.

"Special players win big games, win trophies. He's our club captain and if I could in anyway help to keep him with Munster and within Ireland until the World Cup and then after that I'll do everything in my power.

"I'm in my first week, there are communication lines in place. I'm in contact with (Munster chief executive) Garrett Fitzgerald and (IRFU performance director) David Nucifora, I'm speaking to Joe Schmidt a lot."

Schmidt would also be loathe to lose O'Mahony.

Although he stated last month that there was no official policy on picking players based overseas, he has so far only selected Johnny Sexton when he was based in Paris during his time in charge.

Zebo and Ryan were cut loose as soon as their departures were confirmed, while Marty Moore and Ian Madigan have been in international exile since they left Leinster.

For Van Graan, the chance of losing an influential member of his dressing-room is just one of the challenges facing him as he gets used to his surrounds at Thomond Park.

He is on the lookout for a defence coach to replace Jacques Nienaber who left with Erasmus earlier this month and says the province are close to securing a new face on a callow coaching ticket.

Ireland assistant Andy Farrell is spending two days with the squad this week to help prepare their defence.

"That's one of our big focus points," Van Graan said.

"There's one or two names as possibilities but I want to make sure that I get the right person here that will fit in with the way Munster do things.

"We're thankful for Joe, we've been in contact all along, Andy is here for today and tomorrow.

"The good thing is there was 14 players in the Irish squad. He and Jacques also worked together pretty closely. He is here for a helping hand.

"Felix has done brilliantly over the past two weeks but we are exploring some names. Hopefully sooner than later we'll have someone.

"In terms of consultants, I wouldn't like to elaborate on that now but there will definitely be people coming in and out for short bursts. There are some pretty amazing people here in Limerick that I'd also like to get involved at some stage."

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