There were no shortage of questions for Munster head coach Johann van Graan to answer on Thursday as he held an online press conference with the Irish media.
Everything from the impact of COVID-19, their upcoming fixture against Leinster at the end of August and the settling in of their new South African World Cup-winning signings were all discussed.
In addition to this, van Graan spoke about the likelihood of the Munster Academy players getting more game time over the coming months due to the heavily condensed season which the southern province and the rest of northern hemisphere rugby are about to embark on.
As was the case last season, many of Munster’s Academy are training with the senior squad and it was interesting that Jack Crowley, the star out-half for this year’s Ireland U20s, was among this special group considering he is now only entering his first year of the Academy.
Van Graan outlined the advantages of bringing in this exciting group of young players considering that due to the nature of the current COVID-19 guidelines, they are training in small groups and there is a huge opportunity to learn from more experienced players.
“It was great for them,” van Graan said.
“Last year, we incorporated the academy in our training programme because we had the World Cup coming up. What’s different, I think, in these smaller groups is the one-on-one time. All of a sudden you have Tom Ahern next to our senior international players and seeing what their standards are like.
“I think that’s been brilliant. I’ve been really impressed with the academy lads. You can see that everyone has worked hard, but the way the academy lads have tried to stay with the pace. Somebody like Thomas Ahern, unfortunately with the cards he’s been dealt he couldn’t finish that U20 Six Nations when he was in such great form.
“All of a sudden now, he’s got to jump in a line-out with RG Snyman and he’s got Billy (Holland) and Fineen (Wycherley) around him. There’s a good balance there.”
Van Graan also spoke very highly of Crowley and the South African head coach believes the youngster has a very big future ahead of him which could include already challenging for a spot in the matchday 23 alongside Ben Healy and Jake Flannery when the season resumes.
“I’ve been very impressed with Jack Crowley. He’s just got a certain feel about the way he operates. He’s a natural ball player and he just looks like a rugby player. Certain guys just look like rugby players and he’s going to be good.
“I think there’s going to be some really good competition between himself, Ben Healy and Jake Flannery to get into the 23 in the first couple of games.”