Jump to main content


Van Graan ‘Forging A Tight Unit’ As Munster Confirm London Irish Game

Van Graan ‘Forging A Tight Unit’ As Munster Confirm London Irish Game

Cork native Darren Sweetnam was a try scorer when Munster earned a 32-28 pre-season win over London Irish at Irish Independent Park last August ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Munster Rugby have confirmed that they will host Declan Kidney’s London Irish in a pre-season match at Irish Independent Park on Friday, September 13 (kick-off 7.30pm).

The teams will compete for the Jack Wakefield Memorial Trophy, which is contested every time London Irish play an Irish province in a challenge fixture. The trophy is named in honour of a young London Irish supporter who passed away in 2005.

As the sides meet for the ninth time in 12 seasons, London Irish director of rugby Kidney returns to his native Cork for the second year in a row. The game will form part of Munster’s preparations for the upcoming campaign with the GUINNESS PRO14 season kicking off in late September.

Speaking about their pre-season work, Munster head coach Johann van Graan said: “There’s an introduction to rugby, like this week we were on the field three times. Next week it will be four times and that will increase. Once we’re in the second block (of training), the main focus will be the rugby and spending time across all parts of the game.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity to get all the Academy lads in with the senior guys that are left. All the (Under) 20s coming in, there’s still a few guys with the (Ireland) Sevens. At this stage we’re training with 25 players which is great to have a smaller group and to really get to know the players, to see them functioning across all the age groups.

“You’ve got Billy (Holland) in here and Archie (Stephen Archer) who’s been here a long time. You’ve got the likes of Jake Flannery and Eoghan Clarke, all the young guys mixing and matching with the older guys and forging a tight unit.

“We function in a performance world and you’ve got to be at your best when your best is required – and your best is required every single day. We’re not playing a game for over two months, so it’s vitally important to enjoy the pre-season but also to grow every single day. It’s great that the players share knowledge and that we improve as a group.”

Commenting on the province’s new coaches Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree, he added: “We’re really looking forward to Stephen and Graham coming in. Stephen will be coming in in the second block. He was such a fantastic player and is a brilliant human being. I think he’ll fit really well with Munster and bring in one or two fresh ideas.

“I’ve known Graham for quite a long time. He’s with Georgia preparing for the World Cup now and as soon as he’s finished with Georgia, he’ll join us. He’ll bring something different, he’s a fantastic guy, typical Leicester forward that knows how to get a pack going. So, really excited to get Graham and Stephen in.”

Meanwhile, ahead of the PRO14 kicking off, Munster will also face provincial rivals Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday, September 21 (kick-off 3pm). Click here to buy tickets for the Munster v London Irish pre-season clash. There is free entry for fully-paid up MRSC Season Ticket holders and 10-Year Ticket holders.