‘It’s taken an emotional toll’ – Johann van Graan

·3-min read

Munster are looking to regroup after an ’emotional’ few weeks, according to head coach Johann van Graan.

The Irish province were one of the unfortunate four teams to head out to South Africa days before the discovery of the Omicron variant.

It meant that their United Rugby Championship games were cancelled and left them stranded in the country.

They also returned several positive Covid-19 tests, which delayed the team’s return and resulted in the infected individuals having to isolate in a South African hotel.

Fortunately, those players and staff have recovered and flown back to Ireland, and will join up with the squad on Tuesday.

Absent for a long time

“From a mental and a human perspective it will be brilliant to have the guys back,” Van Graan said. “There’s some coaches, some staff, some players not here – we haven’t seen each other for a very long time.

“The last few weeks have taken a big emotional toll, and just the human side of it, to hopefully be all together in the HPC (high-performance centre) on Tuesday will be good for everybody to meet each other. At the end of the day this is a team sport and we’re a proud club in terms of how we look after its people and Munster have looked after its people very well over the last few weeks.

“It’s important that we get to Tuesday morning and hopefully we’ll all be in a room together and I can’t wait for that.”

Munster’s makeshift side have impressed over the past two weeks in the Champions Cup, earning successive wins over Wasps and Castres.

Although their victory over the French outfit was slightly more stressful than their free-flowing triumph against the English side a week earlier, it was still a mightily important result.

There were plenty of positives during the 80 minutes but there are still plenty of things to work on over the Christmas and New Year period.

One of those is getting players more game time and Van Graan says that he will rotate the squad over the next few weeks.

“Let’s just use two guys as an example that didn’t play tonight: Mike Haley and Simon Zebo,” he said. “They haven’t played in a very long time. Their last game was Connacht. If you think back now, that’s the middle of October, and we are heading into Christmas now. Guys need to play.

“The positive is we’ve got such a good squad that we’ve got a brilliant back three. It’s about finding the balance between continuity and giving guys some games.

“Obviously we can only play one game a week so we will definitely rotate the squad over the next three weeks – Leinster, Connacht and Ulster – and hopefully after that we will be back to full strength against Castres in the middle of January.”

Munster’s game with Castres was one of the few matches to go ahead after seven clashes were postponed due to the impact of Covid.

It has left the Champions Cup in a perilous state, with five of those encounters due to be rearranged.

“It’s a phenomenal competition to be a part of,” Van Graan added. “Obviously Munster have a rich history in this competition and as we said in the changing-room, we’re fortunate just to play.

“If you look at all the fixtures, there’s postponed, postponed, postponed, and only one game played on Sunday – Connacht versus Leicester.

“So it’s not great for the competition but that’s the world that we currently live in and hopefully by wherever we get to, April, for all teams involved we can get a good product and everybody is very, very proud to play in this Champions Cup.”

The article ‘It’s taken an emotional toll’ – Johann van Graan appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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