Saturday 23 March 2019

Van Graan and Kiss chasing redemption

Ulster v Munster Live TG4 & BBC2, KO5.35

Johann van Graan
Johann van Graan

Munster coach Johann van Graan has one decision to make by noon today which will overshadow all others for the time being.

The art of selection is under-estimated and under-appreciated by many outside the offices of the four provinces.

The limitations on the playing minutes of Ireland's internationals leaves a tangled web to be unwoven.

The limited playing resources at Munster meant the South African gave in to temptation in, mostly, putting out his best men on St Stephen's Day.

Understandably, it was far better to target beating Leinster at home in the there-and-then, and dealing with Ulster in the aftermath.

This blew up in Munster faces when Leinster exploded out of the blocks to get ahead and stay there. It did seem apparent that the back-to-back Champions Cup ties against Leicester Tigers took a lot out of the legs and the heads of the men in red. Munster failed to show their trademark passion until it was too late.

The same affliction visited Ulster as they virtually rolled over and asked for their bellies to be tickled by a carnivorous Connacht in Galway.

Their Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, will have been scratching his head at how easily Ulster bowed down.

No matter the names on the team-sheet, there is a basic level of commitment expected from professionals.

These standards were not met at The Sportsground.

It has become an all too familiar theme for the northern province as the absence of Paddy Jackson and Jared Payne has been particularly distressing.

The improved form of Edinburgh, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Glasgow Warriors over Christmas, is an additional cause for concern.

They are looking like a real road-block when it comes to the PRO14 League play-offs and qualification for the Champions Cup next season.

Ulster can take precious little for granted at this point of the season.

Both of these provinces are hunting for redemption only four points can bring.

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