Johann van Graan reaffirms commitment to Munster ahead of Castres clash

Coach scotches any notion he would quit the province before the end of his contract in June

Johann van Graan has strongly disputed any notion that he would be of a mind to leave Munster before his existing contract expires this summer.

His pre-match interview prior to last Saturday's win over Ulster had prompted former Munster scrumhalf Peter Stringer to suggest Van Graan "doesn't really want to be here" but the head coach maintained this is not the case.

"I absolutely want to be here," declared Van Graan yesterday as the province prepare for Friday's Heineken Champions Cup game against Castres at the Stade Pierre Fabre (kick-off 9pm local/8pm Irish).

“I’ve committed until the 30th of June with this club. I’ve communicated that to all the right channels as I’ve stated in the middle of December. From my point of view, again I want to reiterate – I know you guys don’t know me well from a personal point of view – but my heart is certainly in this club. It’s always been in this club.


“Coaches make decisions, as I’ve stated here a few months ago. You would see that very clearly in my press release. I absolutely want to be here. We’ve got big dreams for this group, nothing has changed there.

"The most important thing is, I take you back to what a player like Dave Kilcoyne said, I've been open with this group. I will continue to do so and I'll continue to put every bit I have into this club until I leave here on the 30th of June."

Munster’s performance in the preceding defeat by Connacht drew plenty of criticism, primarily at van Graan himself, but the manner in which Munster conjured two tries with 14 men after Simon Zebo’s 25th minute red card (the winger will face a disciplinary hearing tomorrow) and their collective character is a timely boost in advance of “a very different battle” with Castres. .

“They have got a very big pack of forwards. They will challenge us at scrum and maul time. They will kick long back into our own 22 and invite us to play out of there.

“Yes, we have got some phenomenal counter-attackers and we will use them at the right time. Hopefully we can deliver a performance that makes sure we get a good result on Friday evening.”

Munster have been boosted by the return to full training of captain Peter O'Mahony and lock Jean Kleyn, but the availability of Damian de Allende, who missed the Ulster match with an abdominal injury, will be determined later this week.

Conor Murray and Keith Earls are also back in the mix after missing that game for "personal reasons".

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times