Johann van Graan will be hoping for positive feedback from the Munster medics today on his two frontline tighthead props as he begins preparations for Friday’s Guinness PRO14 trip to Cardiff Blues.
A 49-13 victory over a poor Ospreys side marked a welcome turnaround from the previous week’s defeat in Glasgow and ticked all the boxes for the head coach in terms of performance levels and the re-integration of the province’s internationals. Yet some of the gloss on an otherwise encouraging Friday night in Cork was removed by late injuries to both John Ryan and Stephen Archer.
Ryan had initially replaced Archer in the 49th minute only to last 15 minutes before limping off with an ankle injury. Archer survived just another nine minutes after his re-introduction before requiring a Head Injury Assessment and will have to complete the mandatory return to play protocols.
Van Graan, though, was more concerned about the Ryan prognosis he will receive today: “John is a bit of a worry. He had an ankle and a knee in ice and that’s never a great sign.
Those concerns aside, van Graan was delighted to see his team reach a level of intensity that had been lacking the previous week when Glasgow racked up a 22-0 half-time lead that would deliver a 25-10 victory at Scotstoun.
Munster, with new signings Tadhg Beirne and Joey Carbery making their first starts and seasonal debuts for Chris Cloete, Andrew Conway and captain Peter O’Mahony, punished a weak Ospreys side that had left Wales without many of its established stars including Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, George North and Justin Tipuric. Four brought up the bonus point by half-time and van Graan’s only regret was that Munster had not scored more than their seven tries by full-time. Still, he agreed the benchmark had been set for the rest of the campaign..
“The first 40 was our best 40, we defended well, we mauled well, we scrummed well, attacked very well.
“The next step now is to convert all those opportunities.”
Van Graan will welcome back further reinforcements for Cardiff, where CJ Stander and Keith Earls are expected to make their first starts of the season and it was clear from the lift O’Mahony and company brought on Friday that his frontline stars are bristling with intent after completing their delayed pre-seasons.
Cloete, playing his first game since February following arm and the groin injuries, brought abrasiveness to the breakdown alongside O’Mahony and though the South African won the man of the match award it was his skipper who led the charge in his 59-minute shift.
“Pete is a fantastic captain,” van Graan said. “The way he managed the referee, the way he adapted to the referee and the way he led this week. He was itching to play the last two weeks but with internationals returning you have to just keep them back. He really wanted to continue but he is such an important player for us, and that’s why we took quite a few guys off.
The Munster head coach also welcomed the way new signings Beirne, Carbery, Arno Botha and Mike Haley are fitting into the gameplan they were brought in to execute.
“Tadgh has some free rein to play his game, he is the one forward we give licence to try things because he is just that type of player.
“I thought some of the things he did, defensively and in attack, were pretty special.
“Arno has been enormous over the first three weeks. He hasn’t played in a long time and I think that his third 80 in a row now, so he looked pretty tired in there.
“Joey has imposed himself pretty quickly. I thought he’s had three very good performances and again that step off his right foot and kicking with his left, the try, not so much the try but the fact that he read it, was pretty impressive.
“And I think Mike, from a positional point of view, we’re very happy with the way he can communicate. I think he needs one magic moment to open up the D but hopefully it will come at a time when we really need it.”