Belfast Telegraph

Van Graan able to call on Conway and Cloete after Irish brief

Learning curve: Johann van Graan has been in Irish camp
Learning curve: Johann van Graan has been in Irish camp

By Cian Tracey

Fresh from his time in the Ireland set-up last week, Johann van Graan's focus is now on the less glamorous matter of hosting a hapless Southern Kings side.

As part of his CPD (Continuing Professional Development) programme, the Munster head coach was at training as well as getting the chance to travel with the squad to Murrayfield.

It's all part of the IRFU's desire to have all of their coaches on the same page and, by all accounts, it was a hugely beneficial experience for Van Graan.

Despite being short on game time, Chris Farrell may be disappointed to find himself released back to Munster, especially having put in a big shift from the start in the win over Scotland.

That said, this evening's clash at Irish Independent Park does provide Farrell with the chance to fine-tune a couple of elements of his game as he looks to put himself in the frame for the Italy clash next week.

The same can be said for Andrew Conway, who is back after a calf injury, while there is also a welcome return for Chris Cloete, who hasn't featured since being stretchered off in a neck brace against Leinster over Christmas.

Hooker Niall Scannell is another who could do with a big performance to remind Joe Schmidt of his quality.

Fellow Ireland internationals John Ryan, Darren Sweetnam and Billy Holland start, while Fineen Wycherley continues his positional switch from the engine room to the back-row.

The Kings continue to offer little or nothing to the PRO14 and Munster will have their sights firmly set on securing a bonus-point victory on Leeside.

Meanwhile, with the majority of the focus on Ireland, these are the weeks that the province's fringe players really get a chance to stake their claim for the bigger games ahead.

An away trip to Zebre is hardly one that will set pulses racing but for younger Leinster hopefuls like Ross Molony, it creates an opening for valuable game-time.

This is a period when NIQ (non-Irish qualified) players come to the fore. Scott Fardy has been a revelation since joining Leinster as he remains one of the main drivers behind the standards not dropping.

"I have definitely taken a lot from 'Fards'," Molony maintained. "He will also have a point of view on things and always speak up as one of the leaders in team meetings. He is such an experienced player. He didn't come into his best form until late in his career which again is something you can admire and look up to. He's been around the block so he has a bit of everything there.

"He could bring in a different point of view like line-speed in defence or getting that extra bit out of your maul. There are a variety of things he can offer."

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