BILLY HOLLAND IS a few months away from the Munster squad since his retirement at the end of last season, but his confidence in the men who were his teammates remains intact.
The Cork man – who was named this year’s Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Tom Rooney Award recipient in recognition of his contribution to Irish rugby – strongly believes that Munster will beat the Wasps on Sunday in the Champions Cup.
The southern province had to face serious disruptions in preparation for this weekend’s European clash, but the Netherlands are backing them to win on the road.
âThey’re going to win 100%, I have no doubts,â Holland said. âI might not even know some of the names on the bench. I have every confidence in them that they will come and wear their hearts on their sleeves.
âIt will be one of the best victories for Munster. Back to the wall is an understatement. I have absolutely no doubt that they will skyrocket and win.
While Munster will benefit from the availability of nine international players, as well as the ability to nominate a handful of those who end up isolating on Saturday, there will be academy players involved this weekend as well.
For these young people, Holland knows the message will be simple.
“Just be yourself, have fun training with Munster.” Don’t try to do anything differently.
“Like Eoin O’Connor [the second row], he’s not trying to be Jean Kleyn or RG Snyman or Fineen Wycherley or Thomas Ahern. He’s just Eoin O’Connor – come out and do what you’re doing.
âThat’s the reason they’re here in the academy. For some of these guys they might never experience this again, you really don’t know.
âI think it’s going to be a very simple message that the guys are going to try to get across. Enjoy it, just be yourself and if one of them happens to be on the 23-man squad you go out and get stuck in a bunch of English guys in England.
With Munster focused solely on getting the job done at Coventry on Sunday, it remains to be seen what will happen with head coach Johann van Graan beyond the end of this season.
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The South African’s current deal expires at the end of the season, but with attacking coach Stephen Larkham having already confirmed his departure, the Netherlands are hopeful that van Graan will stay.
“It’s a big blow,” Holland said of Larkham’s imminent departure at the end of this season.
âSteve is the best attacking coach I have ever played with, from an individual point of view. I have been in Munster for 14 years and he is the first person who really teaches attackers how to execute lines, teaches really for attackers how to pass the ball, be on the ball, use their skills.
âIt’s a shame he’s leaving. I hope they can find someone of equivalent capacity to Steve’s to replace him and keep Johann and the rest of the crew on board.
“It’s too bad Steve is leaving, but I think Johann is definitely the right man for the job, with someone who’s like Steve, who has that real offense, that skills development mentality.”