Munster’s upcoming clash with Leinster takes on even more importance as the southern province will be desperate to halt a run of form which has seen them lose two games on the trot.
Munster’s disappointing loss to Castres in the Heineken Champions Cup was followed up by an away defeat to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday, albeit with 13 changes from the defeat from the week before and the southern province did at least make the journey home with a losing bonus point for their efforts.
Nevertheless, two defeats which yielded zero tries will be a cause for concern, so a win over your fiercest rivals at home in front of a sell-out crowd would not be a bad way to reignite one’s season.
That will not be an easy task, however. Leinster are unbeaten since their defeat to Toulouse in mid-October and their winning streak has been all that more impressive when you consider the sheer amount of relatively inexperienced players they have utilised over that period.
For Saturday’s Thomond Park clash, however, both sides are expected to go full-strength which will should provide for a very entertaining spectacle.
“Last year they [Leinster] weren’t full strength and we were 27-5 behind at halftime. I’m a guy that doesn’t make a lot of predictions but I believe for this one it will be Munster versus Leinster at full-strength. I think both teams will be as close to fully loaded as they can be,” van Graan said.
“Obviously, certain guys will need a rest from our side and some of our senior players need to a two-week break, that’s in accordance with the IRFU player welfare system.”
It’s been some time since Munster have beaten their rivals but van Graan will likely take confidence for how they ran Leo Cullen’s side close at the Aviva Stadium this season and in last year’s PRO14 semi-final.
“From our side, it’s a game that we said we’re looking forward to so much to play them again at home. We respect them. If you’re the PRO14 champions and the European champions that’s a team you aspire to be. We thought we played really well in the Aviva.
“We conceded a yellow card early and conceded 14 points. Got back to within five and conceded a penalty from the kickoff. We’re at home, playing in front of a sellout at Thomond Park, which again is brilliant for Irish rugby.”