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Van Graan: "It really hurts. It's out of our hands now"

Conor Murray winces following Munster's loss to Racing 92

Munster head coach Johann Van Graan admitted Racing 92’s late sucker punch was a bitter pill to swallow as his team’s Heineken Champions Cup hopes were all but ended.

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Three tries in the final 10 minutes from Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff sent Racing to the quarter-finals and left Munster almost out of the competition.

The Irish side will have to rely on other results going their way to finish as one of the Champions Cup’s best runners-up, but that is unlikely.

“It really hurts. It’s out of our hands now. Racing go to Saracens and have to win and we have to beat Ospreys to give ourselves a chance,” said Van Graan.

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“It’s a tough one to take. We were over their try line on 60 twice, but we only got three points and they got the seven pointers.

“There was a magic moment from Thomas on 72 minutes which meant we fell behind and there were two magic tries there at the end.

“The scoreline is not reflective, but that’s rugby and you’ve got to hand it to Racing. They finished off the game really well, but I’m proud of our guys. They literally gave it all they’ve got and the last few minutes took it away from us.”

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Van Graan added he had no regrets over Munster kicking a penalty rather than opting for a scrum and a possible try after they were held up over the line in the second half.

“It was a tight game and we were over the line twice before that,” he said.

“You take the opportunities which are presented to you and that penalty took us in front. We made a decision on field and it was a good one to take.”

Munster’s forwards had a brilliant first 70 minutes as they stood up to be counted physically, but they were undone by a late Racing salvo.

Van Graan’s side led 16-11 at the break thanks to Andrew Conway’s intercept try and a conversion and three penalties from JJ Hanrahan.

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Thomas’ first try and the boot of Teddy Iribaren helped Racing stay in the game.

In the second half Hanrahan and Iribaren – who both ended the match with five penalties – went head to head in a kicking battle as it still looked like Munster would edge the game.

But in the 72nd minute, Thomas did brilliantly to collect Finn Russell’s chip to score, the outstanding Vakatawa raced in, and there was still time for Imhoff to complete the scoring.

It was harsh on Munster who left Paris with nothing to show for their efforts.

Racing fly-half Russell said: “It was incredibly hard out there in the first half. Our discipline let us down a little bit, but once we got into the game we built momentum.

“In the first half I felt we lacked precision when we got into their finish zone, but in the second half we managed to execute the chances we got and it was a good result in the end with a bonus point.

“Teddy is on fire. He’s hitting his peak form right now which is incredible for us as a team.”

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Shaylen 46 minutes ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 6 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

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