“That Will Certainly Be A Big Battle” – Munster Youngster Expected To Challenge International Star This Season

Hot prospect.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan is expecting to have a serious selection headache at scrumhalf this season as a result of the phenomenal rise of young nine Craig Casey.

Casey burst onto the scene with the Irish U20s last year with some scintillating performances and despite still being only 21 – is expected to go to the very top of the game with both club and country.

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The Ardscoil Ris man already has 10 senior appearances to his name with Munster and is expected to add to that with a start against Scarlets this weekend in Conor Murray’s absence as he recovers from injury.

But even when the Irish international star returns in the coming weeks, van Graan is expecting Casey to push the British and Irish Lion all the way.

“Someone like Craig has really been pushing, he’s pushed Neil [Cronin] and Nick [McCarthy] along as well,” van Graan said.

At the weekend [in a pre-season win over Connacht], Craig was excellent. He definitely picked up the tempo of the game, he is very good with his communication and demands a lot of his forwards.

“That will certainly be a big battle for the number nine jersey in the coming years at Munster.”

Munster teammate Mike Haley also had nothing but good things to say about Casey this week, calling him “phenomenal” among other things.

“Craig Casey has been phenomenal since we came back. He’s just pushing and has been competitive in everything that he does. He doesn’t let anyone get anything over him, which is great to see. There is massive competitiveness there, in training, and it’s been great to see in matches too.

“When you come down at watch him train, he doesn’t deviate from anything you’d see on the pitch. He’s the exact same on the training field. The whistle would be gone and a lad would chip the ball over the top of him. He’d be fighting for the ball, and all sorts. He really takes it all the way, and that shows on the pitch. It breeds confidence and fair play to him. He’s been playing well.”

And it’s not the first time a Munster teammate has waxed lyrical about the promising academy graduate. Outhalf JJ Hanrahan, who is expected to partner Casey in the halfbacks this weekend, reckons the scrumhalf has all the attributes to go to the very top.

“Yeah definitely, you answered that in one – he definitely has all the attributes to go to the very top,” Hanrahan told us back in August when asked if Casey can go all the way to the top.

“We always kind of joke, I know he’s kind of a small lad, but he’s a fella that uses that to his advantage with his speed, his pace of play – but he also has an incredibly hard work-ethic off the field.

“He’s probably one of the last guys leaving the training pitch every day.”

Watch this space. Craig Casey is certainly going places.