Leamy and Prendergast have returned to Munster ahead of the new season.

Leamy and Prendergast key in Munster's drive for 'passion and aggression'

Graham Rowntree has welcomed the two ex-Munster men home this summer.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Aug 2022

WHEN JOHANN VAN Graan announced his surprise decision to leave Munster last December, Graham Rowntree had a sense that the time was right.

Having been an assistant coach for the preceding 14 years, Rowntree was ready to step up to the top role.

There was some frustration with how long the process dragged on after his interview but it ended with Rowntree confirmed as Munster’s new boss on a two-year deal.

“A wise man knows where he is in his career,” said Rowntree yesterday as he reflected on his first pre-season as a head coach, with his opening friendly game to come on Friday evening against Gloucester at Musgrave Park.

“The day’s a bit busier,” he said of the shift of duties. “There’s a lot more people wanting a piece of your time but I’m loving it so far.

“The time is right for me. It has to be around who you work with, and that’s the player and coaching group. It has to feel right.”

Herein lies a key point. Virtually every successful head coach has good people around them. Assistant coaches vary wildly in terms of their public profile but they play crucial roles behind the scenes.

It’s understood that Rowntree was adamant about getting former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast back to the province as his new attack coach.

Prendergast started his coaching journey with Young Munster and then made a name for himself in France with Grenoble, Oyonnax, Stade Français and Racing 92 – where he still had a year on his contract until Munster and the IRFU made their play.

mike-prendergast Prendergast in action for Munster in 2008. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Prendergast has been earning positive reviews for his work with Munster in pre-season and Rowntree underlined that the Limerick man has “free rein” in terms of driving the province’s attack this season. Many head coaches dictate the attacking game plan to their assistants, but Rowntree wants Prendergast to have full ownership there.

“I had good reports about Mike and his coaching,” said Rowntree. “I did my research with players and coaches who worked with him.

“Having approached him, I knew he was the right fit instantly. A very warm character, knowledgeable, easy to get on with, and the lads are enjoying bouncing off him.

“He’s good craic to have around the place. I had heard good reports and he’s got that affinity and that association [with Munster], which I believe is important. So far, so good with Mike.”

Rowntree will still do on-field coaching with Munster despite his promotion.

One-time Munster hooker Andi Kyriacou has stepped up from an academy role as senior forwards coach, but it’s no surprise that Rowntree will focus on the scrum, “as I’ve always have done.”

Rowntree will also directly coach some of Munster’s contact work and wants to remain centrally involved day-to-day.

“I want to be on the field every day just making sure we’re being us in terms of our intensity and our DNA.”

Munster’s DNA is an interesting topic. Many of their supporters hope to see the province shift away from the style of play employed by van Graan and ex-attack specialist Stephen Larkham.

Prendergast will bring his own ideas in that sense but when he’s asked what traits he wants people to recognise in his Munster team, Rowntree highlighted what might be seen as traditional values.

“Tough to beat, passion, and aggression,” he said.

“I want it to be evident in every minute of the game, and I want it to be evident in training as well.”

denis-leamy Leamy returns from Leinster. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

With those characteristics in mind, the addition of Denis Leamy as his new defence coach makes plenty of sense. The former Munster and Ireland back row was certainly a passionate and aggressive player, as well as a skillful one.

Leamy returns to Munster after being Leinster’s contact skills last season and Rowntree is pleased with his impact so far.

“A quiet man but very good at getting his point across. He gets emotional when he needs to. 

“He is up and down in his meetings in terms of his emotion, which is important, and our lads are really buying into how he’s doing things. He has a presence in front of the group. He’s been good so far, very good so far.

“Essentially as a coach, you’re mentoring young players all the time and he’s worked hard to build relationships with young and old players.

“I can’t speak highly enough about Denis. He quietly goes about his business and within the group, we all gel well together.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel