Munster head coach Johann van Graan faced the media today ahead of his side’s clash with Castres in Round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday.
With the southern province announcing just before Tuesday’s press conference that 12 players have signed contract extensions, the news was put to van Graan and the 38-year-old, as you would expect, was incredibly pleased with getting a lot of business done before a crucial part of the season.
“Yeah, very happy,” van Graan said.
“Great that guys want to stay at Munster, guys that want to contribute and guys who believe in our dream that we have here. I said from the beginning that it’s important that people are happy and the fact that so many guys have already re-signed shows that they’re happy.”
Nine of the 12 players who signed contract extensions today have come through Munster’s Academy or underage pathway and van Graan highlights the importance of this as it reflects the ethos of the club.
“Quite a long way to go in the contracting process as well. Quite a few guys that we still need to get over the line but in terms of the 12 guys that have signed on, brilliant. If you look at the quality within that 12, it’s a real positive sign for the future and most importantly, most of them are coming through our own system.
“That’s what this club is built on and it’s community and respect, not only for the jersey, but the club and supporters around them. It’s important that we keep that going as well.”
Munster have remained unbeaten since their loss to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium at the beginning of October – a run which will undoubtedly be tested over the next 10 weeks with European and interprovincial fixtures dominating.
Van Graan believes that the run which his side are currently on has displayed some of the improvements he has seen in the squad since he took over as head coach this time last year.
“We said we want to move our game forward whilst not going away from our DNA and the things that make us who we are. Importantly, if you look at the weather, if you look at opponents, if you look at the referees, you’ve got to be able to have an all-round game. We believe in an all-round game.
“Certain parts of the game I feel we’ve improved massively, that shows over the weekend if you score five tries regardless who you play anywhere in the world, that’s pretty special to score five tries within a half an hour. That’s some of the things that we’ve been working on.
“It won’t always go like that. Like we’ve shown, the growth of the team in the last few weeks, we’ve been able to stay ahead, we’ve been able to grind out close games and even we were down 14 points against Glasgow and we managed to win that. That shows growth in all facets of the game.”
With back-to-back clashes against the French champions, that growth will certainly be put to the test but if the southern province can manage two victories over the next two weeks, they will be in pole position to qualify from their pool and also in a good state mentally for the interprovincial matches over the festive period.