Johann van Graan – “This is not at all about me it’s about Munster versus Leicester”

Johann van Graan got off to winning ways with his new side last weekend as Munster recorded an impressive win over the Ospreys.

But that has been long forgotten as the South African is set to get his first taste of European rugby as a head coach when Leicester visit Thomond Park this weekend.

Van Graan did have the chance to take in the Racing 92 game back in October and is excited to experience this weekend’s game from the helm.

“I was here for the Racing game, so at least I know what to expect. To be part of a team playing in a European game will be a first for me so looking forward to it, but this is not at all about me, it’s about Munster versus Leicester.

“I’ve read a lot about the fixture, I’ve watched some footage on the two games last year, it’s one of the big clashes in Europe but we can only play the game on Saturday evening. For the rest of the week we’ll be focusing on our process, taking it day by day and building up towards Saturday.”

Academy prop Liam O’Connor will miss the game following a knee injury he picked up in the win over Ospreys but star man Simon Zebo is expected to feature.

“Obviously Liam is a big loss to us, we have Niall Scannell still on the road back but like I said before it’s never an excuse we have to adapt.

“It was nice to have him (Zebo) back, all smiles. He’s a fantastic influence on this team. The medical team said he should be fine, he should be back in the team on Saturday.

Leicester currently sit top of pool 4, with Munster lying in second on points difference, van Graan is expecting a tough test against a balanced side with top talent among their ranks as well as a top coaching team.

“They’ve got threats all around the park, the 15 Telusa Veainu is pretty special from the back, the half-backs are test players. Ben Youngs is one of the best quick tappers in world rugby and George Ford will punish you with his kicking game, very good front row and a very workman like attack.

Scannell in action against Leicester Tigers last season

“The scrum is a big focus point for them. In their broken-field attack, they’ve punished quite a few teams in Europe, in the Castre game they were brilliant at stages. They’re a top quality European team with quality all over the park.”

“They’ve got a quality coach and coaching team, fantastic players and they’re a massive club in Europe. What happened in the past won’t matter on Saturday evening, it’ll be two very good rugby teams in Europe taking each other on in a very tightly contested group.”

Munster and van Graan will ultimately be judged by their success in Europe and with back to back games against one of their oldest foes, the South African will be thrown head first into the blood and thunder of the European game.

It promises to be a terrific occasion and one that Munster fans are sure to relish come 7:45pm on Saturday evening.