herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Van Graan targets Toulon cruncher

Alex Wootton scores Munster’s second try against Scarlets
Alex Wootton scores Munster’s second try against Scarlets

Munster looked down and out with a mere ten minutes gone on the clock at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

The champion Scarlets had ruined their plans with a razor-sharp opening burst that included scrum-half Aled Davies' converted try.

Johann van Graan's men looked all at sea beside the Shannon and then the old values of physicality and adaptability were called on in a riveting 19-7 victory.

"The Scarlets put us under massive pressure with their width and their passing game.

"We knew it was coming. We found solutions on the pitch," said the coach.

It doesn't matter the personnel.

Munster go nowhere without their core trait of brains at the breakdown.

They knew they had to neutralise Scarlets poachers Tadhg Beirne and James Davies and they did it with a forwards-first mentality.

Of course, the substance of the rugby the South African was weaned on is not much of a stretch from Munster's preferred strategy.

"It was great preparation for (Champions Cup) quarter-final week," he said.

"It was timely. In terms of our confidence, the vibe in the dressing-room, we've got a few reinforcements from the Irish camp coming back."

Sadly, Tommy O'Donnell's shoulder and Rory Scannell's HIA will compromise Van Graan's plans for Toulon.

These come on top of the heavy losses of Keith Earls, Chris Cloete, Chris Farrell and Jaco Taute, along with the uncertainty over Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway.

"We have done a lot of planning on them," said Van Graan.

"They are a quality side with some world-class players in the forwards and the backs.

"The most important thing is do the things we do well.

"It is a quarter-final. It is a game of pressure.

"You've got to absorb some pressure. You've got to convert some of that pressure onto them.

"Hopefully, we won't be the first team to crack."

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