Van Graan hoping for timely return of key players

Johann van Graan is hoping he will be able to call on reinforcements for Munster’s Guinness PRO14 semi-final at Leinster in 12 days with the return of key players from injury.

Johann van Graan

The Munster head coach described Leinster as the best team in Europe and makes them favourites to win Saturday’s Champions Cup final in Bilbao against Racing 92, the side that ended his own club’s European dream a fortnight ago.

He also knows his side will have to improve on their quarter-final performance in scraping past Edinburgh if Munster are to make a successful bid for victory at the RDS seven days later and the return of long-term absentees such as Springbok centre Jaco Taute for the trip to Dublin can only help that effort.

“Jaco Taute is possibly a guy who could feature. We might have (hooker) Niall Scannell available. We might have (tighthead prop) John Ryan available.

There’s also one or two long-term injuries that we might have available. I don’t want to speculate at this stage but those few are certainly guys we hope to have back.

Among those nearing a return are believed to Ireland centre Chris Farrell and South African openside flanker Chris Cloete.

Farrell has not played since suffering an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury during an Ireland training session at Aviva Stadium on February 27 following a starring role in the Six Nations win over Wales, a day after Munster revealed Cloete had undergone surgery for a fractured arm suffered against Glasgow on February 23.

Both had been ruled out for the rest of the campaign but van Graan has given hope there may be a return sooner than expected.

Less positive are fresh concerns over the availability of Stephen Archer, Andrew Conway and Jean Kleyn, all of whom suffered knocks during the 20-16 win over Edinburgh.

Conway was removed for a Head Injury Assessment on the half hour and though he returned to play after nine minutes, he failed to reappear for the second half.

Following Ryan’s back injury against Racing on April 22 and the withdrawal of Brian Scott in midweek, fellow tighthead Archer lasted just 16 minutes on Saturday, removed with an arm of shoulder problem that will be reviewed when Munster reconvene for training in Limerick tomorrow.

So too second-row Kleyn, replaced on 57 minutes.

“Yeah, it’s obviously a knock,” van Graan said of the lock. “I can’t say at this stage. He struggled through the second half.

“We’ll assess him and hopefully have more clarity on Tuesday.”

Van Graan is more certain about Leinster’s chances of a fourth European title in Bilbao this weekend, making them favourites to beat Racing..

“Yeah, I would do so,” he said.

There are no weaknesses in their team. I think there are 19 of their guys featured in the Grand Slam. They’ve got a quality coaching set-up and they’ve got a good academy and they perform well on big days.

“They’ve lost a few in the last few weeks but on big days they do perform.

“Good luck to them in the Champions Cup and like I said, we’ll do our preparation and looking forward to the game in two weeks time.”



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