Munster coach said that 20-year old scrum-half Craig Casey has a bright career in front of him after an impressive first start.
The Limerick native, who made his debut when he got four minutes off the bench against Connacht last April in Thomond Park, out on an impressive display to steer Munster to a 19-14 win over their neighbours at the Sportsground last night.
The Shannon RFC clubman, vice-captain of Ireland’s U-20 Grand Slam team earlier this year, also got 12 minutes off the bench against Ospreys in October before van Graan threw him in at the deep for the trip to Connacht yesterday.
“He prepared well, he’s been waiting for the start for quite a while and he knew after this European block he was going to get his shot. He’s a small man with a massive heart,” said van Graan.
“Some of the things that people don’t see — like managing the forwards, I think he did that pretty well. The way he attached and defended off the scrums was very good.
“I’m really thrilled for him. We had 18 guys not available for selection for various reasons so we knew we need to perform well and all credit to the playing group, I thought our play went very well.”
Van Graan said the key to victory over their neighbours was going to be a solid start which would allow them dictate the game.
And the Reds did just that in a contest where they never trailed with Jack O’Donoghue’s 24th minute try helping them lead 16-9 at the break.
“We targeted a good start, Connacht tend to get off to a good start and we won the physicality early on.
“We said it again at half time and I thought we started well. We took our opportunities,” added van Graan, whose side withstood a late Connacht rally insoired by a try from replacement out-half Jack Carty seven minutes from time.