Saturday 20 July 2019

We must take attack to next level - Van Graan highlights main area for improvement for Munster

Johann van Graan in
jovial mood at yesterday’s
Munster press conference Photo: Sportsfile
Johann van Graan in jovial mood at yesterday’s Munster press conference Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When Johann van Graan arrived in Munster mid-season, he wasn't naive enough to think that the best approach was to rip up the script and start again.

The head coach has built on the foundations laid by Rassie Erasmus, and while we haven't yet seen Van Graan's full stamp on the team, there have been plenty of indications of how he wants his team to play.

Munster's defence has, by and large, been solid, and although Racing ruthlessly exploited them when it mattered most, JP Ferreira has also barely gotten his feet under the table in Limerick.

Van Graan has allowed his players to play with a bit more freedom than Erasmus did, but nevertheless the attack remains the main area that he is expecting improvements in.

"We want to take our attack to the next level," the Reds' boss insisted.

"Our decision-making needs to improve, our consistency, our fitness, our breakdown, our defence and our kicking game.

"If you really want to be the best team in the world, one of the best clubs in the world that we aspire to do then you need to improve and there will be a lot of hard work in the coming months to improve.

"It's not big improvements, it's one or two or three or four small improvements. If we add one or two per cent in every department then hopefully we'll get to 10 or 20 per cent and I feel we're good enough to be back in the Champions Cup next year."

Europe may have ended in disappointment again this season, but with a Guinness PRO14 trophy still up for grabs, Munster have quickly shifted their focus.

At the start of the season, not many people would have had Edinburgh down as much more than 'also-rans' but Richard Cockerill has transformed the Scots so much so, that they pose a major threat at Thomond Park on Saturday.

It has been a while since Edinburgh were competing at the business end of the season, and Munster will be aiming to take full advantage of the fact that they are seasoned veterans when it comes to knockout rugby.

But will that be an advantage for Munster in their quarter-final clash?

"That's a difficult one to answer," Van Graan maintained.

"They've got a quality coach, I think he's one of the best coaches in the world. They've got a lot of belief and a very simple plan, so I think they'll come here with nothing to lose.

"They haven't been in this situation a lot, they're playing away from home, they'll give it everything they've got.

"Knockout games, like every game of rugby, are funny things. Pressure is a funny thing, so from our side we hope we start well and apply some pressure and we hope we can put some points on the board.

"Hopefully it will count in our advantage. Once it gets into the last 20 minutes and maybe scores are close, who knows what might happen? So (it is) very difficult to predict, all I can say is, they are a quality side that I respect, and I respect their coach.


"I've said it once before with Jordan Larmour's try on December 26, the Leinster try, you've also got to give credit and all credit to Edinburgh.

"They've come from my perception, I won't say from nowhere but nobody's seen them coming and a lot of guys still don't see them but they are a red-hot team, playing some fantastic rugby."

Munster fully believe that they are good enough to end their seven-year wait for a trophy.

If they can see off Edinburgh, Leinster await in the last four, at which point, they will need more variations to their attacking game if they are to make it back to the Aviva for the final later this month.

"I said from the first day I'm not going to come in and change, we're going to enhance," Van Graan added.

"I think we've surprised quite a few teams by some things we've been doing but if you want to change habits you need to do it consistently, so there'll be a few changes in pre-season leading into next season and into the next.

"Some of the best teams currently in the world, it doesn't happen within one season.

"Obviously there's a fantastic foundation from the coaching staff before me so it's about keeping what's worked really well and improving maybe one or two areas that I just mentioned and hopefully we as a team and as a squad can take it to the next level."

Irish Independent

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