‘He’s a young guy with a big future’ – Van Graan excited for return of Ahern

THIS season hasn’t gone quite as Munster supporters would have hoped.

Johann Van Graan’s side fell to a PRO14 final defeat against rivals Leinster and were knocked out of the Champions Cup by Toulouse in the last sixteen of the compeititon.

Yet there is a positive vibe around the camp and that is reflected by the words of the coaching team and players at press conferences week in week out.

Munster know they are not far off Europe’s elite clubs and with RG Snyman, Simon Zebo and a whole host of young talent set to step up to the first fiteen next season, their optimism is understandable.

One player who is expected to lead the next generation of Munster players is 6’9 Waterford second row Thomas Ahern. The 21 year-old is an all-rounded freak of nature whose agility, physicality and skill-set will be a massive weapon for the province in the coming seasons.

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Ahern has been disrupted by injury this season but has still made six appearences. Head coach Van Graan says that the Waterpark and Shannon clubman could still add to his senior team experience before the season is out.

“He’s struggling a bit with that knee. He’s taking part in some parts of rugby but he’s not 100% clear to return to play.

“Obviously he’s someone we have a huge amount of believe and faith in for the future. As soon as he’s cleared and returns to full training hopefully we’ll get him some gametime in the Rainbow Cup.

“He’s a young guy with a big future ahead of him and I can’t speak highly enough of him but we have to make sure he’s 100% ready before we pick him.”

That of course means that Ahern will be unavilable for this Friday’s Rainbow Cup fixture against Connacht at Thomond Park (6pm KO). Munster will hope to build on their excellent victories against Leinster and Ulster in round one and two with another strong display against Andy Friend’s side.

It was confirmed earlier this week that Munster will follow up the Connacht fixture with games against Cardiff Blues and Italian outfit Zebre.

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