Matt O’Connor: Van Graan won’t have to ‘reinvent wheel’

Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor has told Johann van Graan he “doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel” now he has been given the reins at Munster.

Johann Van Graan.

Van Graan was made head coach of Munster last month after fellow South African Rassie Erasmus left to become director of rugby for the Springboks.

The role is a new one for van Graan, who has previously only worked as a member of a team’s backroom staff as opposed to being the head coach.

Making that leap from the backroom to the frontline can be challenging for a coach, but it is one those looking to go to the top of management in rugby have to take.

Van Graan’s opposite number on Sunday, O’Connor, did just that during his first stint at Leicester.

The Australian arrived at Welford Road in 2008 as backs coach, but within two years he had been promoted to head coach.

Such a prospect can be daunting for any individual, but O’Connor has told van Graan he does not need to make his mark at Munster by making radical changes.

Instead, the Australian has told the new head coach to simply carry on the good work that his fellow countryman Erasmus began. “There is a load of different responsibilities,” said O’Connor.

“He has got a different group of people, he has got a different culture, he has got a different nationality of players. So there are a lot of things that he has to come to grips with, but he has been around a long time. He is a good pro.

“They (Munster) have got a fantastic culture. There will be a lot of players and people in the environment that will help him with that. They have been very good over the last couple of seasons so he doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

“It is just about continuing on with what they have been doing on the path that they have been on for the last two or three years.”

Leicester and Munster clash tomorrow as they look to continue one of Europe’s most enduring rivalries. Indeed, this is now the third time in a row the pair have been drawn in the same pool.

Last year, Tigers were humiliated 38-0 on their visit to Thomond Park but this time O’Connor is sure his side have learned their lessons about the task ahead.

“When you get 25,000 people screaming at you in the rain, it has the potential to be intimidating,” said O’Connor. “It is a fantastic atmosphere, the crowd is very animated and it is incredibly noisy. I think we have got a better understanding of what is required to win away from home in Europe.

“They’re hard to come by, but I think this group has got a good understanding of what it takes to win away from home. So that’s why we are going to go to Limerick with confidence that we can go down there and we can get a result.”

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