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‘There’s No Lack Of Motivation Or Excitement’ – Van Graan

‘There’s No Lack Of Motivation Or Excitement’ – Van Graan

Only four points cover the Pool 2 teams heading in penultimate round of the Heineken Champions Cup’s pool stages. It is very much ‘on a knife edge’ as leaders Munster head to Kingsholm to play fourth-placed Gloucester.

Munster are now table toppers in both their GUINNESS PRO14 Conference and the Champions Cup, having warming up for their New Year European return with back-to-back interprovincial derby wins over Leinster (26-17) and Connacht (31-24).

Entering a vital fortnight in their season, which includes a sold-out home clash with Exeter Chiefs, Munster are waiting on scan results on Chris Farrell’s right knee. The big centre injured it against Connacht last Saturday and ‘is the big one for us’, according to Johann van Graan when speaking about the province’s injuries.

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“Chris went for a scan on his other knee. He literally got injured in the last play of the game and when the final whistle went I had a look at him and I could see the disappointment on his face,” said the Munster head coach. “So we don’t know anything yet. We’ll see what the scan reveals.”

Munster’s injury update this week also confirmed that prop John Ryan was removed as a precaution for a head injury assessment during the first half in Galway. He has completed the HIA process and has been cleared to train.

Chris Cloete, who has been nursing a neck injury, will be reintegrated into team training this week, JJ Hanrahan is currently being assessed by Munster’s medical staff for a left hip injury, while Brian Scott (foot), James Cronin (leg) Jack O’Donoghue (knee) and Dave O’Callaghan (foot) are continuing with their rehab programmes.

Notably, Munster have won each of their last five meetings with Gloucester, those victories all coming by more than 12 points, but the province’s last six away games in Europe have all been decided by single figure margins and another tight contest is expected on Friday.

“You can see it’s wide open. Cup rugby, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s very accurate in this scenario,” said Munster captain Peter O’Mahony. “It’s hugely important that we certainly get our performance, because if we don’t get our performance, we are not going to be winning this weekend.

“We certainly have done a bit of work on (the lineout). I was happy with the way it went against Connacht. I think we had 100% ball-winning, which was a good start and our maul certainly functioned a bit better last weekend, but there is always room to improve.

“We got caught high a couple of times, there were a couple of inaccuracies, a couple of deliveries that we can get better, but it was certainly positive for us. It was nice to be back in. After a couple of booster weeks, I was looking forward to getting back playing. There was a great buzz on Monday coming back into a European week and that’s always a good sign.”

Van Graan added: “There’s no lack of motivation or excitement for this week. I think the key from the coaching point of view is to actually hold them back and not to waste unnecessary energy before we take the field on Friday night.

“I’ve never been to that stadium (Kingsholm) before but from what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, it’s an incredible place, it’s a sell-out and it’s Munster versus Gloucester. There’s so much history between the sides so it will be a fantastic rugby occasion on Friday night.

“That’s why I came to the northern Hemisphere, for days like Friday evening. You’ve got the best players in both leagues that are going to go for each other and the winner over the next two weeks between the four teams, there’s a quarter-final spot available so we have to look forward to it.”