‘We are improving every single season’ – Johann van Graan

Date published: April 5 2021

Munster head coach Johann van Graan disagrees that they have taken a step backwards after being ousted at the last-16 stage of the Champions Cup.

The Irish province succumbed 40-33 to Toulouse on Saturday, a week after once again losing to Leinster, this time in the PRO14 final.

They have reached two European semi-finals under Van Graan, in 2018 and ’19, but were eliminated at the pool stages in 2020.

After another disappointing season in the Champions Cup it suggests that they have either stagnated or gone backwards, but the Munster boss believes that the team have developed in 2020/21.

A superb season

“We have had a superb season with 16 wins out of 20 games,” Van Graan told reporters. “And what we saw out there was a magnificent game of rugby, some of the best we have seen in the competition thus far.

“We are improving every single season.”

Van Graan does, however, see plenty of room for improvement after Toulouse proved to be too strong on Saturday, despite a couple of controversial calls going the way of the French outfit.

“If you really want to be the best team in the world, as we aspire to be, then you need to improve everywhere,” he said.

“The frustrating thing is we’re so close every single time. We gave it our best shot and we came up short on Saturday. That happens in sport, it’s certainly no excuse from my side; we’ve got to improve again.

“In terms of alignment from an organisation point of view, from a coaching group, from a players’ point of view, we’re all aligned and we’re going to keep improving. We believe that the best is yet to come.”

Munster were criticised following their PRO14 final defeat but showed an improvement in the Champions Cup a week later, leading after 66 minutes before eventually going down at Thomond Park.

Van Graan added: “Every single game is different. Leinster squeezed us whereas Saturday was a much more open game; they were perfect conditions out there. Last week there was a lot of wind so you adapt according to each individual opponent.

“Unfortunately we came up short last week. Yes, there was a lot of criticism from certain guys, but we believe in the guys that are in here and we believe in what we are doing.

“We believe we are improving but we just have to start again and go again.”