Gordon D’Arcy on the bond between Carbery and Van Graan, O’Neill defends Christie

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Joey Carbery during Munster’s defeat to his former side Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joey Carbery during Munster’s defeat to his former side Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster begin their 2018-19 Heineken Champions Cup campaign away to the Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (3.15pm ko), and an already daunting assignment has been made more so by the absence of frontline scrumhalves Conor Murray and Alby Mathewson. However, in his column today Gordon D’Arcy suggests the province’s trip to Sandy Park could prove to be a defining moment in the relationship between outhalf Joey Carbery and coach Johann Van Graan. He writes: “These two very young men in high pressure roles should form a special bond, regardless of the result, from this series of matches. A relationship forged by trust can support their now interlinked career trajectory, with Munster the immediate beneficiaries.”

Elsewhere Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has leapt to the defence of fullback Cyrus Christie, ahead of Saturday’s Uefa Nations League clash with Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. Christie came in for heavy criticism from Alan Shearer following Fulham’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal last Sunday - but the 26-year-old has his national boss on his side. O’Neill said: “I don’t think the severe criticism (of Christie) was warranted. I don’t think everything was down to him and the first thing I thought about when Shearer was saying those things was ‘you should be asking the question’. Maybe that’s why he only managed seven games; that might be something to do with it.”

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