Van Graan: Munster not specifically targeting Leinster’s players
Nick McCarthy the latest to follow the road south taken by predecessors like Carbery
Johann van Graan on latest recruit, Nick McCarthy. “I think he is a brilliant young player. He was captain of the Ireland U-20s . . I like his passing game a lot and I like his running game.” Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Munster are not directly targeting Leinster’s players according to Johann van Graan, but he insists they will not be put off signing the province’s next generation.
Scrumhalf Nick McCarthy became the latest Leinster player to sign for the southern province last week, following the path taken by Joey Carbery, Jordan Coghlan, Andrew Conway, Niall Ronan and Felix Jones. And the latest signing prompted Leinster coach Leo Cullen to have a dig at their rivals.
Cullen insisted Leinster were keen to hold on to McCarthy but he said they were “conscious of the fact that there is a lot of Leinster players being . . . ‘targeted’ maybe?”
But van Graan insisted there is no policy in Munster to target Leinster’s fringe players, although he said they won’t be put off trying to sign any available player.
“We are looking at Munster players first and then if there is an opportunity and we want somebody from – regardless of the club – we’ll approach him,” says van Graan.
“I didn’t hear Leo’s comments. I respect him as a coach, we’re in constant communication as well. We are certainly not targeting one province’s players. If you look at the players that were brought in last season, it’s from five different provinces.
“You look at your squad and that’s professional rugby and you look of where’s an opportunity for a guy to come in. I’m looking all across the world. Obviously Irish players come first, and the most important thing is Munster players.”
McCarthy has already played six Champions Cup games in his 31 Leinster appearances, although he has been limited to four first-team starts in his four seasons in the squad.
The 23-year-old will join Conor Murray and Neil Cronin in the Munster squad for the start of next season, both of whom recently signed contract extensions, while Duncan Williams and James Hart are both out of contract next summer. Van Graan has already said he’d like to see another nine, Alby Mathewson, extend his four-month deal, but he likes what he sees in McCarthy.
“I think he is a brilliant young player. He was captain of the Ireland U-20s I believe. I like his passing game a lot and I like his running game. He’s a player on the brink of taking the next step and I felt that’s a player that can add value to our squad. We did our research and it was an opportunity, it was coming to the end of his contract and we signed him.
“Neil Cronin was last year playing club rugby and I saw him. It’s a Munster player that I brought in to our team and now he’s got another two years on his contract.
“Look, I’m a South African coach coaching in Ireland. I’m definitely not going to prescribe to Ireland how they should run their system; I’m part of their system. What I will say is that currently the number one side in Europe is based in Dublin and they are doing fantastically well. Every club in the world wants their players, not only one club.
“At certain stages you look at your squad and certain guys move on. Last season we lost a few guys as well and that’s just part and parcel of professional rugby.
“Our communication has been constant and clear, on a human side you always want to keep all of our players but you can only have so many. It’s a nine coming in and we’ll make our decisions later in the season on the nines that we currently have.”