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Munster to call on big guns for Leinster battle as van Graan looks to send Stander off with PRO14 crown

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Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has said that he will make selection decisions for Saturday's PRO14 final against Leinster based on each player's specific workload.

Leinster have already confirmed that there are no IRFU restrictions in place in terms of the player management programme, and as such, assistant coach Robin McBryde revealed that the champions have a full squad to pick from, apart from their injured players.

Although van Graan took a more measured approach this afternoon, the Munster boss is expected to name a full strength team for this weekend's decider at the RDS.

With both provinces also mindful that they are in Champions Cup action against strong French opposition next week, there had been fears among supporters that some players would be rested.

However, while Leinster may opt to juggle their resources, Munster are set to call upon all of their big guns, as they aim to end their 10-year wait for a trophy.

“Firstly great to have them back, they had a fantastic win over England so brilliant to have your international players back,” van Graan said.

“We look after each guy individually, some guys have played more than others and we're slowly building towards that Saturday afternoon final.

"Look, we're going to embrace and enjoy the week, it's the first time in a few years that Munster have been in a final so really looking forward to it, big challenge against the PRO14 champions of the last few years in their backyard of the RDS, so massive challenge that awaits us but one that we're looking forward to very much.”

Confidence is high in the Munster camp and even though they are not underestimating the scale of the challenge that lies ahead, they have impressed enough this season to suggest they could cause an upset in Dublin.

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"It's been a really consistent campaign, if you include the European games we've won 16 out of 18 games and we've given 53 players an opportunity to play, so really glad for the group,” van Graan continued.

"This was one of our hopes for this season, to get past that home semi-final stage, but it worked out differently that the team that tops the pool gets to the final.

"The fact that we finished 19 points above Connacht is really satisfying from our point of view and now it's about the final, and like I said before, a massive challenge against Leinster away at the RDS, but great for the squad that we've reached this point in our season.”

Ireland used the motivation of last Saturday being CJ Stander's last game for Ireland before he retires, as they produced their best performance since 2018 to beat England.

Munster will be hoping for something similar, even if this weekend will not be Stander's final time lining out in the famous red jersey.

"CJ has been fantastic for Irish and Munster rugby, he's played over 150 games for the club and we've got a final to look forward to,” van Graan added.

"But this is not the end for CJ at Munster, we've got a European tie after this week against Toulouse and a whole host of games up until the end of June, so it's another step in our journey of the season.

"But from CJ's individual point of view, great for him to get a win in his last Test for Ireland, it was really emotional and a great send-off for him but he came in on Monday and said it's a massive game for the club, and it's never been about him it's always been about the club.

"His character speaks for itself in terms of that and look, it would be great to win this game for a whole lot of reasons, and one of them will be CJ.”


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