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'He knows what Munster people want to see and he probably knows where this team needs to go next'

The latest episode of Rugby Weekly Extra for members of The42 discussed the news that Graham Rowntree is set to be confirmed as Munster’s new head coach.

Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree is reportedly set for a big promotion.
Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree is reportedly set for a big promotion.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

Updated Apr 11th 2022, 10:07 PM

MUNSTER’S LONG SEARCH for a new head coach could finally be set to come to an end, with reports today suggesting the province have decided to give the top job to current forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

According to a report in The Limerick Leader today, Munster have already offered the position to Rowntree, who has accepted and will succeed the outgoing Johann van Graan at the end of the season, with the South African set to join English Premiership side Bath.

Van Graan announced his decision to leave the province almost four months ago, and Rowntree quickly emerged as one of the favourites to step into the top job.

The development was discussed in-depth by Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – which is available exclusively to members of The42 every Monday and Wednesday.

“I think, to be honest, it has the potential to be very different,” said Bernard. “He wasn’t part of Johann’s regime coming in here. He’s got his own experience. It’s vast experience from across the game.

“By all accounts he’s a very loyal guy and probably had very little chance to really influence the overall environment as an assistant coach, y’know? And if you looked at the pecking order, Johann was number one, it seemed as though (Stephen) Larkham was maybe given the coach-type role – on the pitch anyway – so he would have had a huge influence.

Then, their defence coach (JP Ferreira) is obviously very close to Johann. And then ‘Wig’ (Rowntree) was doing scrum. And apparently Johann did a lot of the lineouts as well, and he did a bit of contact area, so he (Rowntree) probably didn’t have a huge amount of opportunity to really put his stamp on things in terms of the overall team style of play, team environment etc.”

Munster have come in for heavy criticism this season as the province have struggled to kick on under Van Graan, but Bernard believes Rowntree can help take the club in a new direction.

He’ll also need to find a new support staff, with attack coach Stephen Larkham and defence coach JP Ferreira also following Van Graan out the door in the summer.

“I certainly wouldn’t be negative about the fact that he’s been part of this coaching team,” Bernard continued.

I think he came in as a kind of single figure and had to merge with other personalities. Also, he’s going to have a chance, now, to bring in his own defence coach, his own attack coach, and whatever else he probably wants. Maybe a skills coach – you know, Munster don’t have a full-time skills coach. I think there’s a guy in the development system who comes in and does a little bit.

“Rowntree may excite everybody with the quality of team he puts together. They mightn’t all be big names. They may be just people that he’s come across in his career that he really rates. And in fairness, he knows the players, he knows the personalities, he knows what they’re doing well, and I think that’s probably an advantage given the fact that they obviously weren’t able to go out and sign a head coach with a massive CV.

“I think the advantage they get from Graham is that he does know what’s working and what’s not working, and hopefully he has the chance to implement that.”

johann-van-graan-with-graham-rowntree Van Graan (left) and Rowntree during a Munster training session. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

During the half-time break in Munster’s 13-8 defeat to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, the BT Sport cameras caught an animated Rowntree delivering a passionate message to his forwards.

“I was going to say, let’s not over-analyse a 10-second clip but let’s do exactly that because he transformed the game with his rant at the Munster forwards,” said Murray.

It was interesting to see Johann van Graan sitting there, listening to him as well. Just a brief flashpoint but he obviously is a big influence there and extremely popular with players from everything I’ve heard. He will be a popular appointment.

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“And as we’ve said on one of the recent pods, he had put himself out there, he was waiting for a long number of weeks without any word on what’s happened, so if it all gets confirmed and signed and sealed, that’s a really good thing – and just for everyone. Like, you could sense Peter O’Mahony’s frustration with the situation just last week when he was asked about it and players not knowing, so that’ll be great for everyone.

“It’ll be fascinating to see what he builds around him in terms of the coaching staff. There is lots of change ahead. One of the names I heard last week was a guy called Clark Laidlaw, a Scottish guy who’s been coaching New Zealand sevens. I don’t know what the story is there, really, beyond just the name, but there will be lots of names that he’s worked with over the course of his career.

“And then it’ll be fascinating just to see what his philosophy is, how he wants to play. He’s not done this before, he’s not had the full rein.

“He knows what Munster people want to see and he probably knows where this team needs to go next. Berch mentioned skills there: we’ve talked about their poor attack and that not being up to the level in big games for a number of seasons now. It’s clear what needs to get better and I’m excited to see what he brings.”

The lads also looked back on all of the action from an incident-packed weekend in the Heineken Champions Cup, and an important win for Ireland against Italy in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations.

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie.

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