Van Graan doesn’t regret Munster tactics in loss to Leinster

Head coach says ‘currently we are not good enough at knockout rugby at this stage’

Munster head coach Johann van Graan speaks to the players during training. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Munster head coach Johann van Graan speaks to the players during training. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Munster’s tactics in their Pro14 semi-final defeat by Leinster just over three weeks ago came in for plenty of critical analysis, but Johaan van Graan is seemingly not of a mind to suggest they would have approached the game that much differently.

“We, as a group, reviewed the game. There were some things we could have done better. We didn’t go to the semi-final to lose the game. We missed some crucial opportunities between minutes 50 and 65,” he said in reference to two missed penalties by JJ Hanrahan.

“Had we taken that, it might have been a different result but factually it wasn’t. We learned a lot from the Pro14 final and then the European quarter-final. You can read into that what you like,” added Van Graan in reference to Leinster’s win over Ulster in the final and their Champions Cup quarter-final loss to Saracens.

This hinted that Saracens’ approach against Leinster was not dissimilar from Munster’s, although in the main Van Graan noted that the common thread was the losing team being forced to play catch-up.

“You’ve got to remain in touch in a knock out game; you can’t play catch-up in a knockout game. Looking at a European quarter-final, one team tried to play catch-up and didn’t make it in the end and one team got the lead.

“For us, we didn’t use our opportunities well enough. Yes, we could have done certain parts of our game better. Our lineout didn’t function in that particular game, and we had the best lineout in the Pro14 so we had to look at why.”

Van Graan also served a reminder that “we came up against a team who had two weeks of preparation and we had five days and limited training time. We’ll never use that as an excuse, we haven’t done. But those things all come out in a review. We’ve got to look at what teams do in knockout rugby. Currently we are not good enough at knockout rugby at this stage.”

Opening assignment

Munster’s attention now switches to the new Pro14 campaign and a very difficult opening assignment away to the Scarlets, “one of the very best sides in the league away first up” and who finished just four points behind them in last season’s Conference B.

“They’re certainly a team we respect a lot, we’ve got them hopefully late in the season at Thomond Park as well again, but they are one of the quality sides. It’s always a big game, Munster versus the Scarlets. They’ve made some changes to their coaching team, they’ve brought in a few new players, but the spine of their team is very, very experienced.

Ken Owens, Jake Ball, someone like Uzair Cassiem that I’ve coached before playing fantastic rugby, (Gareth) Davies, (Leigh) Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies back - there’s just so many threats across that team. So it will be a big test for us first up away.”

Van Graan is hopeful that Conor Murray (thigh) and Dave Kilcoyne (ankle) will be fit for Saturday week’s game against Edinburgh in Thomond Park but apart from those two, Joey Carbery and RG Snyman, Munster will travel to Wales with their strongest side.

“We also see it as doing something for the first time,” added van Graan. “We haven’t even gotten on a plane for a very long time. The last time, as a group, we were on a plane was when we went to Zebre in February, so we are privileged to have the opportunity to play the game of rugby in a very difficult time in the world.

“We don’t take that for granted so we’re looking forward to that as a group, enjoy the journey and being tested first up.”

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