Munster coach Johann van Graan says big money French clubs will continue to chase Irish players

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent, at UL


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent, at UL


Munster coach Johann van Graan says big money French clubs will continue to chase Irish players

Munster head coach Joahann van Graan

MUNSTER head coach Johann van Graan does not believe that big money French clubs will cease their interest in signing top level Irish players after CJ Stander joined Peter O’Mahony in signing up for the province for three more seasons.

Munster were handed an early Christmas present on Thursday when Stander put pen to paper on a new three-year deal with the IRFU which will see him remain at Munster until the end of the 2020-2021 season at least.

Johann van Graan said what the IRFU is offering players is more than just money.

Van Graan said: “Money is part and parcel of the game. What I do know is life is not always about money. Money is important, but people need to be happy.

“People need to believe in something. People need to believe in a dream. Players and coaches need to be a part of a team because a team makes you feel good. The feeling we had in the changing room after that Leicester game you can’t describe.

“After putting everything in during the week and getting a result against top quality opposition, that’s the beauty of the game. And then coming in and enjoying yourself every day, that’s important.

“That’s why I am a big believer in environment first, a place where people can be themselves live out their dreams and come to work and smile.

“Where your work is where you spend so much time of every single day. We are going to hope to keep improving the environment in Munster.

“People are in a very good spot in all four provinces and the Irish team are a very happy team. It’s about improving and setting standards where players and coaches can improve.

“Hopefully we can offer that more than just money.”

Van Graan said he was not aware of any interest from Ulster in signing Munster out-half JJ Hanrahan on loan on a short-term contract as their Wallaby play-maker Christian Lealiifano is set to return home.

Uncertainty surrounds a return-to-play date for Munster’s New Zealand out-half Tyler Bleyendaal who remains sidelined with a neck injury.

Van Graan said: “I am not aware of any request at this stage (concerning JJ Hanrahan). JJ (Hanrahan) is very much part of our plans. He is a quality player and will feature over the next 11 days (in interprovincial fixtures).

“I don’t want to speculate or get into any sort of communication regarding that. He is part of our plans and our Munster 23. JJ is very much part of plans and important to us.”

Speaking in relation to Tyler Bleyendaal, Van Graan said: “We are going to take it week by week. Just saw him earlier in training, but we are going to be very careful with Tyler, manage him very well.

“We said two weeks ago, within the six weeks we will hope to see a lot of improvement. Might be ready on a Saturday and then we will play him. And if he is not ready week by week we will take it day by day with him.”

Munster are currently preparing for the sold-out St Stephen’s Day inter-provincial clash with Leinster at Thomond Park in the PRO14.

All 26,267 tickets have now been sold for the fixture.

Munster’s new South African defence coach JP Ferreira has arrived in Ireland ahead of the December 26 derby.