Zebre likely first test for new Munster coach Johann van Graan

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Zebre likely first test for new coach van Graan

Munster new head coach Johann van Graan

MUNSTER Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus expects new head coach Johann van Graan to take charge of the province for the first time in the PRO14 clash away to Zebre in late November.

Van Graan has returned to South Africa after spending last week getting to know the Munster players and backroom team, as well as attending Saturday’s Champions Cup victory over Racing 92 at Thomond Park

With a three week break in the PRO14 following Friday week’s home fixture against the Dragons, Erasmus feels Van Graan should be in charge of Munster for the Sunday, November 26 game away to Zebre.

Erasmus said: “I don’t know the exact date, but if you want to think logically about this, we have got two games now (v Connacht and the Dragons) and then a three week break.

”If one is honest and open about it it should be the Zebre game he should be in charge, if the paper work and stuff doesn’t go wrong. I think that’s more or less what we will do.”

Munster return to Guinness PRO14 action this Friday against Connacht at the Sportsground, 7.35pm, when Erasmus is expected to still have the majority, if not all, of the Irish internationals available to him.

Munster are set to be without hooker Niall Scannell for the next six weeks to two months after he underwent surgery on a thumb injury on Monday.

Munster also expect to hand a debut to their South African flanker Chris Cloete later this month.

Twenty six-year-old Cloete, who has played for the South African ‘A’ side, joined up with the Munster squad last week to begin a three-year deal with the province.

Asked when Munster fans are likely to see Cloete in action, Erasmus said: “Next week the national side will be selected (for November internationals) and then the Irish players will be out of the mix. He's an out and out openside flanker. He can play number 8 for you, but he'll be a guy who'll give Tommy (O’Donnell) a good rest.

“I'm not sure if Tommy's in the mix with the Irish set-up, but Tommy does need a rest. He's been playing every minute and we've been subbing him the last 15, 20 minutes. His workload's still been a lot.

“Chris only arrived last Tuesday so we want to make sure he knows everything and if we still have Tommy for this week (v Connacht) and maybe next week we might hold him back a little bit but I'm pretty sure the next two week you'll see him.”

Erasmus is expecting about eight Munster players to make the Ireland squad for the November internationals.