Munster flanker Chris Cloete ruled out for rest of season with fractured arm
Coach van Graan relieved Murray came through Wales game unscathed
Munster head coach Johann van Graan with scrum coach Jerry Flannery. “You can’t say enough about Conor Murray. His work-rate, what he brings to the team, his calm demeanour.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
And he joked with Joe Schmidt afterwards that the scrumhalf should now be rested for the remainder of Six Nations so that he would be fit for Munster’s Champions Cup quarter-final showdown with Toulon next month.
Van Graan said he regards Murray as a world-class player with extraordinary talents and he reminds him of former Springbok captain Fourie du Preez.
“You can’t say enough about Conor Murray. His work-rate, what he brings to the team, his calm demeanour. He’s the type of player who has got no fear. It seems to me that he does things, he doesn’t always know why but he just does it. He’s such a natural talent.
“I’ve said it about one player that I’ve coached before and I think he’s the same. A talent hits a target that nobody else can hit but a genius hits a target nobody else can see. He sees things that other players don’t and I think Ireland are very lucky to have him at this stage.
“Fourie du Preez is a player I coached for a very long time and in the big games he always wanted the ball. For the Bulls in finals, that’s when he came through and when I coached him with the Springboks in big games, he wanted the ball.
“Conor Murray is the same type of player. He seems to want it. The more the game gets tough and the higher the pressure gets he seems to say, ‘listen, just give me the ball’.
“I actually spoke to Joe after the game and the two of us had a laugh and I said to him you must rest Conor now for the next two Irish games and make him available for Munster!
“I think everybody in Ireland knows how important he is to Irish rugby and to Munster rugby. He is one of our world-class players in our team and I believe together with Sexton for Ireland, when those two play, Ireland win. So not only for Munster but Irish rugby it’s very important he stays fit and I was very glad when he got up.”
Meanwhile, The loss of flanker Chris Cloete for what looks like the rest of the season is a big blow to Munster, according to the coach.
The South African fractured a forearm in Friday’s 21-10 win over Glasgow Warriors and is unlikely to see action again until next season.
The 27-year-old underwent surgery on Saturday morning but is unlikely this season to add to the ten appearances he has made since arriving in November on a three-year deal.
“Chris Cloete a massive loss for Munster for the year ahead,” said van Graan at Munster’s base in Limerick yesterday. He was operated on Saturday morning the operation was a success, but he is still in a bit of pain.
“Luckily, he was all smiles here this morning with his arm. It went well but it looks like it is the end of the season for Chris. Just on a personal note for him, he came to Munster this year and I thought he had a massive impact not only on the field but off the field as well, he is one of the characters of the team.
“I think the nicest thing is the way the guys embraced him after the game and even this morning. They know it’s a big loss but that’s part and parcel of rugby. it’s the next guy’s opportunity to step up. Luckily, we have got Tommy O’Donnell back, which I am looking forward to see play and Conor [Oliver] has been pretty special in the two games have seen him play thus far. So we have options at openside.”
His younger brother Rory has returned to Munster from Irish camp along with tighthead prop John Ryan, while centre Sammy Arnold is going in the opposite direction for two days with the national squad before coming back to Munster.
Van Graan said promising lock Fineen Wycherley suffered a serious leg injury in a development game on Thursday, while Irish international Andrew Conway continues to be assessed for a knee injury and might be ready for the trip to Murrayfield. Winger Ronan O’Mahony will be out for a few more weeks with a shoulder problem.