Munster players and management will say that they have moved on from the disappointing defeat to Castres but one gets the sense that the result and the manner of what took place throughout the 80 minutes in France will rankle for some time.
Not only did Munster lose a game they should have won – they had ample opportunities to score more than 12 points including four missed shots at goal and the butchering of some try-scoring chances deep within the opposition 22 – but they lost out in the physicality stakes to a Castres side who went wrongfully unpunished at times which will leave many thinking what could have been.
From the ‘slide tackle’ on Andrew Conway, the alleged eye gouge on Chris Cloete and the dangerous tackle on Peter O’Mahony, the citing commissioner will have certainly been busy reviewing footage of this game.
Head coach Johann van Graan, speaking to the media at Monday’s press conference at the University of Limerick, revealed that Munster followed their “normal process” in relation to highlighting incidents to the citing commissioner post-match and one expects the aforementioned events were top of the list.
“Whether it is PRO14 or Europe, you follow due processes every week,” van Graan said. “That’s why there is a citing commissioner, it goes to both teams after the game and we followed our normal process. There were certain obvious incidents in the game and it was pretty evident for all to see.”
The 38-year-old South African admitted he is isn’t aware that any of his players have been cited and that he is proud of his team for how they behaved on the field even though there are lessons to be learned to how to adapt to such circumstances.
“Every game of rugby is different. Things happen in a game and the spirit of rugby is important, the values of the game.
“I’m proud of the way our players behaved on the field. You’ve got to adapt in the game, with certain incidents we didn’t adapt and that’s a learning from our side. That game is behind us now and we have Ulster now.”
Van Graan admits that his side weren’t clinical enough but he defended Joey Carbery who had an off day with the tee and who has come in for criticism from some quarters for his game management.
“He is disappointed like all other players. There is a big spotlight on every 10 in a game of rugby and especially when he is your goal-kicker. He said he is disappointed, he is going to work on it. That’s sport.
“As a team, we win together and we lose together. It’s not only the goal-kicker, only a ten or only one individual. That’s why every week you start at zero. We own up to the fact we weren’t good enough at the weekend. We created two try-scoring opportunities, one didn’t go our way, one was a forward pass. We missed four kicks at goal and if we got one of them we might have won the game.”
Munster will have to dust themselves off and focus on another daunting task – an in-form Ulster side in Belfast. The Friday night fixture will likely see many of Ireland’s international players rested on both sides as the IRFU’s player management programme kicks in over the festive period. Joe Schmidt is also holding an Ireland camp at Carton House this week.
Luckily for the southern province, they are due to welcome back some of their injured players including the likes of Tommy O’Donnell and Jean Kleyn who will both be available for the trip up north if they come through training this week.
Dan Goggin, who was so impressive during the early parts of the season, will also resume training this week along with Darren Sweetnam who has been injured since he pulled up with a back injury during the early stages of Ireland’s final November international against the USA.
“Dan Goggin will be back in training today [Monday], first time that he will be back, he might be back over the weekend, possibly only next weekend,” van Graan said.
“Sweets will be back in training which is great and like I said, he hasn’t been on the field yet. Jean Kleyn trained with us last week as did Tommy [O’Donnell], so they’ll be back into full contact today. If they come through it, hopefully, they will be available for selection. Excited to see the likes of Conor Oliver who played 30 minutes against Zebre and has played club rugby.”
Ulster host Munster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night – KO 7.45 pm.