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Munster on a high as they prepare for Zebre visit on Saturday

By Aidan Corr
THE press day at the University of Limerick this Monday was a jolly place to be. The atmosphere was laced with a mixture of achievement and anticipation with a home quarter final safely achieved, a place in the PRO14 almost assured and the prospect of another home victory next Saturday when Italian side Zebres come through the iron gates of Thomond Park more than a possibility.
Happy days for Munster Rugby but when it came down to business the attending media threatened to sully the mood by throwing a few googlies: “What is your view on taking two South African18-year-olds into the Munster Academy. Is there a chance that local players of the same age group may see this in a negative way as regards their chances of getting into the group? Head coach. Johaan Graan deals with the question with a straight bat: “That decision was made before I arrived here.”
Next up is a query about another South African, second-row Gerbrandt Grobler: “Will he be in the frame for a start on Saturday against Zebre?”.Once again the reply is cautious from Johaan: “He is fit again and ready to go so we will see later on in the week. Simon Zebo, of course, is also available for this next game.”
Niall Scannell (pictured) spoke on the changes in the role of the hooker at the scrum and how Keith Wood had come into the training sessions some years ago to assist when Niall was playing schools rugby: “I’ve got two injuries at the wrong time in regard to Ireland caps, one in November and the other for the Six Nations. I’m now trying to stay positive and get some game time. Hopefully I’ll show a bit of form against Zebre. We do a lot of scrummaging in training, it’s a bit of a speciality of mine and I take a bit of leadership at these sessions.”
After decades of attendances at Munster press days, the one thing I should have learned was not to mention ‘the winning bonus point’ under any circumstances coming into league or cup games. Not for the first time temptation got the better of me and I spluttered out the unmentionable when Duncan Williams joined us for a few words: “Coming into games like these there is always a focus on the bonus point, will that be ye’re aim?,” I asked. The answer was predictably short: “We won’t be thinking of the bonus point we will just want to win this game. Obviously with the internationals away there is a chance for a few lads to get a run so we want to just get out there and get a result. This time of the season is always a good time to give younger members of the squad a chance to put their hands up for places. It will be my 150th Munster cap if I play against Zebre so that is a bit of a milestone for me. I had a bit of an injury but the body is good at the moment and I’m ready to go.
“Zebre are a good attacking team, they have the ‘most defenders beaten’in the competition, they are a good attacking team and they don’t kick the ball away as much as before. I haven’t started a game now for a few weeks so hopefully I’ll get out there on Saturday and get some game time.”

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