Champions Cup: Munster’s Johann van Graan is looking to rely on the ‘16th man’

·4-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Munster coach Johann van Graan believes “nothing is impossible” as he looks ahead to his side’s Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Toulouse in Dublin.

The cup tie will be played at the Aviva Stadium as Thomond Park was booked for an Ed Sheeran concert. The club has made tickets and travel plans affordable for their fans to make the trip from Limerick.

Fans are vital

Van Graan completely understands how vital supporters can be in the sport and looks forward to a big occasion this weekend.

“It’s one of those things that you can’t explain if you’re not there,” he told reporters.

“That feeling of everywhere you go, everyone is just talking about what a great journey it will be on Saturday travelling to Dublin by bus or train, going on the day before or the morning, people travelling from all over Europe, Munster people coming to watch this game.

“It’s what this club are known for, that saying we have, ‘To the brave and faithful, nothing is impossible.’

“To a lot of people from the outside, this might seem like it is impossible, but it is a game of rugby. It’s Munster in Europe versus Toulouse, a team that we respect a lot. How many occasions have the 16th man pulled us through?

“And that doesn’t win it for the team on the field. We have to play well, we have to perform well. But subconsciously, knowing that we have that support and noise, that sea of red for 80 minutes, that’s why you want to play at home in knock-out rugby and that’s what we have on Saturday.”

Toulouse are the defending Champions Cup champions and have shown the ability to create tries in the blink of an eye to change games, much like they did with Antoine Dupont’s late winner against Ulster in the round-of-16.

Van Graan believes finding structure in the chaos will be critical as his side can capitalise on their French counterparts’ risky play.

“You have to control and structure the chaos,” he said. “There are one or two moments in the Ulster game which we looked at when Toulouse twice threw the ball behind their try line but still managed to get out.

“But if you flip that, if you can turn that into seven points, it works in your favour.

“If you look at our game [against Toulouse] last season, we also threw quite a few punches from our own 22 and scored two fantastic tries in the first half. So both teams will play positive rugby, the weather seems good. It’s about balance and managing your energy. You might concede, you might go ahead, this game will go the full 80.”

Toulouse rely on a solid set-piece to power their game upfront for the game-breakers to make good decisions about kicking and attacking.

“You can’t look past the set-piece and their power game,” Van Graan said. “Scrum penalties, maul penalties. The kicking game from nine and ten from both starting sides and their benches, the impact of players coming on and then one player making one play that’s the difference between winning and losing.”

Van Graan is delighted to have the in-form Andrew Conway training again, which will bolster the back three.

“He’s had a phenomenal year,” he added. “That performance he gave against the All Blacks in the Aviva, some of the performances in the Six Nations.

“On the flip side of that, Simon Zebo has been excellent for Munster on the left and Keith Earls in the last few weeks has been fantastic on the right.

“Then if you look at Shane Daly’s performance against Exeter, and the try that he scored, and Calvin Nash’s performance on the weekend against Cardiff.

“And I think Mike Haley is playing the best rugby of his career. So we are blessed with some very good back three players. That gives us options and that’s a great headache to have.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Toulouse’s François Cros keen for dream season to continue

The article Champions Cup: Munster’s Johann van Graan is looking to rely on the ‘16th man’ appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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