"There was a Watt-bike, weights and a piece of grass waiting for him" 4 months ago

"There was a Watt-bike, weights and a piece of grass waiting for him"

Neither man would have expected this sort of welcome when, late last year, their respective transfers to Munster were confirmed.

Damian De Allende and RG Snyman are seeing a bit more of their surroundings as the Munster senior squad are midway through two 'down' weeks before a July 27 return to training.

The South Africans - both World Cup winners last November - had to quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Limerick, due to Covid-19 guidelines. Snyman, at least, had his wife, Saskia, for company. De Allende was holed up in a Limerick hotel for his first fortnight in Limerick but he had some home-cooking, delivered by his new coach, to help get him through.

Munster head coach Johann Van Graan spoke with the media, this morning, about how his squad has got on since returning, in phases, to training at University of Limerick. He also spoke about the unusual welcomes his compatriots got to Ireland.

"In terms of the new players," he says, "some fascinating stories. Damian, RG, Matt Gallagher and Roman Salanoa haven’t actually even met all of the squad because we’ve been in smaller groups. Guys are meeting each other over Zoom and over Microsoft Teams.

"When Damian came in he was in isolation for two weeks. He’s coming in from Japan so you bringing him food and looking after him. He’s been behind a window and a wall, so a pretty strange start.

“When RG and his wife came, similarly from Japan, they went into their home and there’s a Watt-bike and some weights waiting for him, and a piece of grass, and they just entered a home that’s so new to them."

Munster head coach Johann van Graan during a press conference at University of Limerick earlier this year. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

Van Graan has a positive update on versatile forward Tadhg Beirne after the Ireland international was badly damaged in a December outing against Saracens. He comments:

"Tadhg’s looking incredibly well. Because he had a leg injury, he’s been able to work on his upper body strength so he’s in phenomenal condition. He’s still with the rehab group and he’ll re-join the squad on 27 July. He’ll got to come through his rugby training, but if all goes to plan I envisage he’ll be available for selection [against Leinster] on 22 August."

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While the Leinster academy players only return on Monday week, Munster have had several of their best academy prospects in those training pods with the senior players.

"I’ve been really impressed with the academy lads," says Van Graan. "You can see that everyone has worked hard, but the way the academy lads have tried to stay with the pace. Somebody like Thomas Ahern, unfortunately with the cards he’s been dealt he could finish that U20 Six Nations when he was in such great form. All of a sudden now, he’s got to jump in a line-out with RG Snyman and he’s got Billy (Holland) and Fineen (Wycherley) around him. There’s a good balance there.

"I’ve been very impressed with Jack Crowley. He’s just got a certain feel about the way he operates. He’s a natural ball player and he just looks like a rugby player. Certain guys just look like rugby players and he’s going to be good.

"I think there’s going to be some really good competition between himself, Ben Healy and Jake Flannery to get into the 23 in the first couple of games."

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