Friday 22 March 2019

Van Graan larceny unlikely for cullen's leinster

Munster v Leinster Live RTé2/Sky Sports Action, KO3.15

Jordan Larmour lines out at full-back for Leinster at Thomond Park today. Pic: Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour lines out at full-back for Leinster at Thomond Park today. Pic: Sportsfile

Munster coach Johann van Graan is where Stuart Lancaster was around about this time last year in that the Englishman was walking into a new job halfway through the season.

The Cumbrian was landed into a sleeping European giant with all the tools to awaken the beast.

Of course, the difference is that Lancaster was looking to resurrect his career as a senior coach, one step down the hierarchy from Leo Cullen.

The South African has been dropped in, at short notice, to guide a province already playing somewhere close to maximum on foot of the influence from Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber.

"I think he's coming into an established system and I think it is a successful one," said the former England coach.

"Last season, they lost in the PRO14 final and in the semi-final of Europe."

This is not too bad a base to be building from.

In contrast, Lancaster was employed to lift a club with a far higher ceiling and, because of that, from the outside, far higher expectations.

"When I came in here it was probably slightly different circumstances," he said.

The Englishman's steadying influence last season has turned into marked progression to clean up all four rounds of the Champions Cup for the first time since the 2004/2005 renewal.

The additions of Scott Fardy and James Lowe and the emergence of Jordan Larmour has broadened the scope of the game plan.

The advice to Van Graan would be not to tear up the playbook at Munster.

"I would say more of the same. Why change something that is clearly working?

"I think he'll come in and bring his own identity during the course of this season.

"But, ultimately, I think it will be more of the same and why change?"

Van Graan has been in the hot seat for a wet week and has seen sense to let his lieutenants Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery take a lead role.

Is there any discernible change in the way Munster go about their business?

"I think it's still too early to identify," said Lancaster.

"When you come in as a new coach, you can't just wave a magic wand and change everything overnight.

"It does take time. I'm sure he'll put his own stamp on things as he goes."

The strengths Munster showed at Leicester Tigers last week are the same strengths that have been their traditional calling cards.

"They're very good defensively, very good at the breakdown - all the bedrocks of the game, Munster are very good at," noted Lancaster.

"That's why when you beat Exeter, your mind very quickly turns to the next challenge and it's one of the biggest really.

"It's one of the biggest rivalries, derbies and one of the biggest games in the world really."

For this particular expedition, Leinster have handed the responsibility of the captaincy over to Jack McGrath.

It will be interesting to listen in on his relationship with Nigel Owens, a referee not likely to be swayed be hometown sentiment.

Jordan Larmour will make his first senior start against Munster at full-back.

The 20 year-old recalled going for one win and one loss at the Age Grade levels in an interview earlier this week.

Barry Daly returns from syndesmosis of the ankle on the more unfamiliar right wing as Lowe assumes the left-wing role where the New Zealander picked up two tries on his debut against Benetton Treviso.


Leinster have seen fit to rely on Michael Bent at tight-head across the row from McGrath and James Tracy, who showed good impact against Exeter in Europe.

The emerging James Ryan will partner Devin Toner in the second row as Jordi Murphy, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan look like a well-balanced loos-eforward unit.

Munster's van Graan has made four changes, full-back Andrew Conway and hooker Rhys Marshall both returning from concussion.

Ireland internationals Tommy O'Donnell and Keith Earls, a childhood hero to Larmour, complete the quartet which do little to lessen their all-round strength.

On the basis of Munster being far closer to full-strength - Leinster are always at full stretch to win in Limerick - the home side is taken to prevail in a mouth-watering contest.

Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: N Scannell, J Cronin, J Ryan, D O'Shea, J O'Donoghue; D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, S Zebo.
Leinster: J Larmour; B Daly, R O'Loughlin, R Henshaw, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath (capt), J Tracy, M Bent, D Toner, J Ryan, J Murphy, D Leavy, J Conan. Replacements: R Strauss, E Byrne, T Furlong, M Kearney, J van der Flier; N McCarthy, C Marsh, N Reid.
Verdict: Munster

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