Van Graan proud of Munster’s response to Castres’ intimidation
Coach ready to juggle his playing resources as interprovincials loom over Christmas
Munster’s Niall Scannell receives a yellow card from referee Wayne Barnes during the defeat to Castres at Stade de Pierres. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Munster coach Johann van Graan said he was proud of the way his players conducted themselves on the field against Castres in a tempestuous Champions Cup clash on Saturday.
After a game that saw Castres’s Rory Kockott and Marc-Antoine Rallier sinbinned along with Munster’s Niall Scannell, the 50-hour window for citing other incidents in the game passed on Monday without any additional punishments being revealed.
Some flashpoints in the game enraged the Munster players and Van Graan said he was happy to see them play the game in the correct spirit and maintain their cool, even in the context of a 13-12 defeat.
“Every game of rugby is different. Certain things happen in a game and I think the spirit of rugby is important, the values in the game. I’m proud of the way our players behaved on the field,” said Van Graan.
“There were certain obvious incidents that happened in the game and it was pretty evident for all to see. I’m a believer in this game, that is why I am in it. You play it to the best of your ability and we respect our opponents every single week. After the game, you look at what happened, learn and move on.
“You’ve got to adapt in the game, with certain incidents we didn’t adapt quick enough and that’s a learning from our side.
“Whether it is Pro14 or Europe, you follow due processes every single week. That’s why there is a citing commissioner, it goes to both teams after the game and we followed our normal process.”
The defeat in France still sees Munster on top of their pool by three points, but wins for Castres and Exeter means it is a very condensed pool now, with just four points separating top and bottom. It’s Gloucester away up next for Munster in Europe, but in the meantime they play all three Irish provinces over Christmas, starting with Ulster in Belfast this Friday.
With a very heavy international schedule followed by an intense three weeks in a row, van Graan will have to juggle the resources within his squad in the next three games, but a clean bill of health after Castres is a boost.
“The communication from David [Nucifora] and Joe [Schmidt] has been fantastic, similarly from Jason [Cowman, Ireland S&C coach]. We know that certain guys have got more minutes than others. Certain guys will only play one game, certain guys will play two games. So, out of our squad, most guys will only play two games and some of them only one game.
“It’s about balancing over the next few weeks leading into Europe. That’s important for us as a squad. We’ve got Ulster on Friday night which is in itself a huge challenge at this stage.”
Loosehead could be one position that Munster are a little stretched in for the inter-pro games. James Cronin (leg) will be out until the new year, while Brian Scott sustained a foot injury playing for Cork Con at the weekend.
Dave Kilcoyne played all but 13 minutes of the back-to-back European games, which could see Jeremy Loughman make just his second start for the province at some stage over the next fortnight.