By Simon Lewis
New Munster head coach Johann van Graan has pledged to do everything he can to persuade Peter O'Mahony his future lies in his native province, despite reports linking the club captain with a move away from Ireland.
Van Graan, at the start of his first week in full control since succeeding Rassie Erasmus earlier this month, got an early reality check today when was faced with the possible exit of the 28-year-old Ireland and Lions flanker from the province at the end of the season.
Following reports that O'Mahony had rejected an IRFU contract offer to extend the Corkman's stay in Munster beyond the end of his current deal in June, Van Graan faced the Irish media in Limerick for the first time since leaving his post as South Africa's forwards coach and his captain's future was the main topic of conversation.
“I haven't spoken to Pete one on one yet, he's currently contracted to the IRFU until the end of the season,” Van Graan said.
“He's been offered a contract extension with some added benefits and I believe it's in the interest of Munster Rugby and of the IRFU to keep him at Munster and in Ireland.
“Luckily, that's hopefully not a done deal (that O'Mahony is leaving).
“He stands for so much more, he's a Munster man through and through and I'm looking forward to having that discussion with him.
“All the clubs in the world are concerned about losing players to England and France.
“Special players win big games, win trophies. He's our club captain and if I could in any way help to keep him with Munster and within Ireland until the World Cup and then after that I'll do everything in my power.
“I'm in my first week, there are communication lines in place. I'm in contact with (Munster CEO) Garrett Fitzgerald and (IRFU Performance Director) David Nucifora, I'm speaking to (Ireland head coach) Joe Schmidt a lot.”
Van Graan also has pressing injury concerns to deal with ahead of his first game in charge against Guinness Pro14 strugglers Ospreys in Cork this Saturday, chief among them a six- to eight-week lay-off for new Ireland cap Chris Farrell.
The outside centre hobbled out of Ireland's win over Argentina on Saturday with a knee injury with a scan confirming a medial ligament sprain.
It adds to Munster's problems in midfield with Jaco Taute and Dan Goggin already out long-term, while wing/centre Keith Earls has also been sidelined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring issue suffered during the Irish autumn camp.
Van Graan was an observer for Munster's bonus-point PRO14 victory at Zebre last Sunday and saw Simon Zebo, James Hart and Stephen Archer fail to finish the game, although all three injuries are not considered serious.
Full-back Zebo was replaced in the closing minutes in Parma after jarring his knee and was due to undergo a scan today to determine the full extent of the injury, while scrum-half Hart sustained a dead leg and tighthead prop Archer was treated for a laceration to his forehead, but will train this week as normal.
Munster welcomed back scrum-half Duncan Williams to training after he was ruled out of the Zebre game with a shoulder injury while openside flanker Tommy O’Donnell is managing an AC joint injury in his shoulder and is expected to take part in limited training.
Fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) is continuing to work with the medical team and is a doubt for the weekend.