David Corkery on rugby: Munster would be better off if Johann van Graan left now

'Not only would this be best for a province that are screaming for direction and guidance, but it would also be best for the man himself'
David Corkery on rugby: Munster would be better off if Johann van Graan left now

Head coach Johann van Graan during Munster rugby squad training at University of Limerick. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Should I Stay or Should I Go; a song by the legendary rock band The Clash, and verse three goes as follows.

'Should I stay or should I go now?

'If I go, there will be trouble,

'And if I stay it will be double

'So come on and let me know,

'Should I stay or should I go?'

Well, if I were in Johann Van Graan’s boots, I think this is a question I would have asked myself as soon as I had put pen to paper and signed the contract to move to Premiership side, Bath.

Making decisions like this are never easy for any professional sportsperson. However, when your mind is made up, and whether it is the right or wrong decision, you need to go for it with both hands and never look back.

Unquestionably, van Graan should now be nothing but just another chapter in Munster’s archives.

Not only would this be best for a province that are screaming for direction and guidance, but it would also be best for the man himself.

Coaching a team with Munster’s bloodline is one of the hardest jobs in rugby and as soon as you have lost the backing of the 16th man which is the heartbeat of the team, you are on a hiding to nothing.

Van Graan no longer has the support of many of the passionate Munster supporters who fill the terraces week after week and whether someone like Munster academy manager, Ian Costello or forwards coach, Graham Rowntree should be pulling the strings until a permanent successor is named is somewhat irrelevant, just as long as van Graan isn’t.

At this stage, I think the Thomond Park groundsman would probably do a better job than van Graan.

HISTORY REPEATING

I am sure the South African gave everything to the cause over his term at the helm; however, his failure to learn from his mistakes and alter his tedious and monotonous blueprint of how the game should be played has ultimately led to his downfall.

If something isn’t working you don’t go back to the training paddock and do the same thing over and over again and expect different results on match day. Yet this seems to be exactly what he has done and after four years of watching Munster fail when it matters most, there has been no change to the way the players go about their business.

This, for me, was again highlighted last week when the Munster players spent the last five minutes of the first half picking the ball from the base of every breakdown and getting battered back by a Connacht side that would have rather died than let Munster over the try line.

Even when Connacht were reduced to 14 men because of a yellow card, Munster continued with the same method of trying to cross the whitewash and in the end they got turned over, handing a massive psychological boost to their hosts. After that game van Graan was quoted as saying: “We’ve had a helter-skelter period for the last three months.”

Well, welcome to the real-world Johann; so has everyone else and if Munster ever expect to reach the summit of the game again, they cannot be losing to Connacht, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful towards the Westerners, but they are not exactly Toulouse, Leinster, or Saracens.

The fact that van Graan is still calling the shots in Munster is a complete insult to everyone who has ever played or contributed to what the red jersey represents.

There is no way that someone can sign a contract to take over an English premiership side like Bath and at the same time give their full-time efforts to their current role and if anyone tells you they can, I can guarantee you that they are telling a lie.

Traditionally Bath are just as big in England as Munster are in Ireland and having lost all their 10 games in the league, their structures will need a complete overhauling.

Not only will van Graan need to put in place a new coaching team, he will also need to scour the planet looking for players to rebuild a club that has the same lofty expectations as the one he has decided to leave.

Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

This week van Graan has the advantage of playing on home soil and against an Ulster side that hasn’t played since they defeated Northampton Saints on December 17 in the Heineken Champions Cup.

After that, their games against Connacht and Leinster were called off due to positive Covid results so, I would expect the visitors to be rusty in terms of cohesion.

Many of Munster’s household names and seasoned internationals will be back on the field for this game and it is imperative that they win and do so by playing a far more exploratory brand.

From now until the end of the season the senior players of Munster rugby must take control of the club’s destiny and give whoever is taking over as the director of rugby a running start to their stint in the driving seat.

Ulster are a team playing well, but as Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

Thomond Park must rekindle its once-formidable reputation of been a horrible place to visit and who better to begin the process against than the men from Ulster.

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