Van Graan admits testing summer lies ahead

Johann van Graan admits Munster will find it difficult to build momentum for next season while having to bed in possibly three new coaches.

The head coach faces a testing summer as he loses up to a dozen frontline players to Ireland’s World Cup effort in pre-season and the tournament itself during September and October. 

The South African also has to fill the vacancies created by the departures of Jerry Flannery, the forwards coach, and Felix Jones, in charge of backline and attack.

Although insisting there is no rush to find the right people for Munster, van Graan admitted his hopes for building momentum ahead of the late-starting 2019-20 campaign would be made more difficult by having to acclimatise the new coaching staff members while preparing for the new season.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you a different story. It is going to be difficult,” said van Graan. 

“The positive is we’ve got continuity in our players and in terms of our S&C (strength and conditioning) and our medical department, and in our general department, we’ve got a lot of continuity.

“Now hopefully we will find the right people who will fit into Munster, and make us a better team. Like I said, September 28 is a long time away, although time flies quickly. So we’ll take our time, try and find the right people, and then move forward.

“Luckily, the planning started a few months ago as to what we want to do in the off-season. The PRO14 and Europe starts a lot later… so we’ll take our time, do a thorough review in terms of the management and the playing group.

We certainly want to improve our game and we’ve made one or two predictions that we’ve started to work on, where we think the game is going to go.

"Certainly, I think it’s a big summer and it was the same last season. Certain things we’ve improved on and we’ve got to look at the opportunities to get better again.

“In terms of effort and attitude, I can’t fault anybody. I’m proud to be the coach of this time. It’s incredible men and women who are working at Munster, and we are hungry and we believe we need to work even harder to get into a final.”

He added: “It’s not just going to happen. You don’t just win your European pool like we’ve done the previous two years, you’ve got to start all over again and in the PRO14, I think we won 16 of our 21 league games, and that takes some doing.

“In order to get into this position you’ve got to go and do it again, and hopefully better it. So a lot of hard work ahead.”

There will be no new signings other than Leinster scrum-half Nick McCarthy this summer. 

Van Graan said: “Obviously, with the World Cup coming up, there might be some short-term opportunities, depending on who goes to the World Cup but at this stage, this is the group that we’ve got.”

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, almost certain to be with Ireland for the first month of the domestic season, said the wider leadership group at the province would have the task of picking up a dejected squad following the loss of two semi-finals in the space of four weeks.

“The lads that have been here for a while know the score and I’ll be depending on them to do the same (pick them up),” said O’Mahony.

“The younger guys need to understand that these semi-finals are hard to get to and we’ve done a lot of good work but we’ve got to understand that we need to find a little bit more and I’ll be depending on our leadership group to get that point across, particularly for our off-season and building into the start of the season this year, how vitally important it is every week.”

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