EXPECTATIONS have not dropped in Munster just because of Covid, says coach Johann van Graan.
If anything they have risen because of the province’s new signings Damian de Allende, RG Synman, Matt Gallagher and Roman Solano.
“It’s one thing about Munster, the expectations on Munster Rugby and that certainly won’t change and it should never change, because we’re expected to win at Munster Rugby.
“That being said, I think we are in a different time in terms of talking big picture. I think we’ve got to take baby steps and why I say that is the only thing we’re concerned about now is August 22 [the first game is against Leinster in the Aviva in Guinness PRO14] because the whole world will have changed like we all know it.
“I think it’s important not only for Munster but for Irish rugby to play that game on the 22nd of August and to play those games across those four weeks because so much can happen between now and then.
“So we are only focused on the first competition of the year because one thing we’ve learned is that if we look forward now to knock-outs in European rugby in December and through next season I think we’re just looking at it the wrong way.
“So yep, the expectation will certainly be something that we’ll embrace as a group but it’s very much about those first few games against Leinster and Connacht and then hopefully qualifying for a semi-final, and then anything can happen with two weeks to go in the Aviva.”
Rugby fans can’t wait for that starting date in August but have had Super Rugby to whet their appetite.
Van Graan is keenly aware that refereeing of the breakdown and contact will be key as they always are but because of referees’ interpretations of the laws of the game, getting an upper hand early on will be key to who wins the early games in the inter-pro series.
“I think it’s important to note that it’s not changes in law, it’s, just being more strict on the way that the laws have been refereed.
“We’ve had various discussions with World Rugby with PRO14 and with the Irish referees on this.
“We spent a good amount with coaches that are currently coaching with that and I think it’ll be like anything.
“I think the first two weekends of our competitions, you might see a whole lot of penalties because, to be fair to the referees that referee our games, they haven’t refereed for six or seven months so it’ll take time for them to get used to it as well,” says the Reds coach.
Because he has been able to watch those Super rugby games, van Graan feels that teams in this part of the world will see how those interpretations are being refereed.
He is blessed to have the likes of Peter O’Mahony and the returning Tadhg Beirne in his squad as he has been able to see from those Super Rugby games how important the ‘jackler’ is going to be once rugby returns to this part of the world.
“Look, it’s all about quick ball, the main priority stays the tackler. The tackler’s got to get out of there east to west, that priority hasn’t changed.
“I think the team that adapt the best to the carrier, what he can do in that one dynamic movement… is the jackler.
“I think the role of the jackler is going to be massive, and I think you’re going to have to look at your selection, because you’ve got to make sure that you get jacklers into your team.
“Also your planning has to know how you look at opposition teams because the jacklers are going to be big, big talking points in games and then the third thing is your arriving players, you know rugby is a game for people playing on the feet. So the term, ‘drive not dive’ is going to be pretty important.
“So, in my view it’s going to be the same for all teams, so the teams that adapt the best maybe in the first few rounds will be the teams that get the most amount of calls going for them across the season. I think it’s important that we adapt and I think it’s real important to note that this is a theme, we need to make sure we make our game better and you know, as a club we’ve got that responsibility,” says van Graan.