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Munster’s Josh Wycherley is congratulated by Keith Earls after earning his first senior provincial cap on Monday.
Munster’s Josh Wycherley is congratulated by Keith Earls after earning his first senior provincial cap on Monday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Munster not ruling out move for front-row cover but Rowntree impressed by impact of West Cork youngsters

Monday’s impressive debutant Josh Wycherley is one of only two fit looseheads at the southern province’s disposal.
Oct 29th 2020, 4:46 PM 15,620 13

MUNSTER FORWARDS COACH Graham Rowntree has not ruled bringing in front-row cover with three loosehead props out of action for the foreseeable future.

Rowntree said that 21-year Josh Wycherley, the latest from West Cork to make the breakthrough for Munster, showed he has a fine future ahead of him with an impressive debut off the bench in Monday night’s bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues.

But Wycherley and James Cronin are Munster’s only fit looseheads. Dave Kilcoyne is set to be sidelined for another eight weeks after undergoing surgery this week on a troublesome ankle injury, while Liam O’Connor is not expected back for another month with a calf problem. Jeremy Loughman, who can also play tighthead, is out for another six weeks with a shoulder issue.

Rowntree, the former England and Lions loosehead and forwards coach, knows more than a bit about the position and reckons Wycherley has a bright future as he follows in the footsteps of brother Fineen, who already has 44 Munster appearances under his belt even though he won’t be 23 until December.

“He has patiently waited his turn, has Josh. A thorough professional, he’s very fit, like his brother,” said Rowntree. “The pair of them are a joy to coach. And he took his opportunity and he did well for us on Monday. He’d have wanted longer game-time, he’d have wanted longer but we put him on at the appropriate time and he didn’t let us down.

“It is not out of the question that we may need a bit more cover. But Josh’s performance was everything we expected.

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“We have got a good depth of young lads queuing up to come through, particularly back row. The art of coaching is bringing them in at the right time, in the right environment, people around them.

And Coombes has been very good for us. He has really blossomed with more game-time, 80 minutes on Monday night, 80 minutes full of all action, not just carrying but a lot of defensive work, a lot of good work at the base of the scrum, and John Hodnett as well. He has been pretty good for us as well and we are waiting for a lot of others to come through… Jack O’Sullivan, Jack Daly, in particular, they are all patiently waiting their turn. The cupboard is well stocked in that area but, as I say, the art is when to bring them through.

gavin-coombes-with-willis-halaholo Gavin Coombes scored two tries on Monday night. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Rowntree said that the Champions Cup draw on Wednesday has given them plenty to look forward to in December when they will take on Harlequins, where he was forwards coach for a couple of seasons, and Clermont Auvergne.

“Proper teams them, aren’t they? It’s great for us. Obviously, I know Harlequins, having worked there. Some great people there. Some rich history, a great club. And Clermont, giants of the game. I have had some proper dingdongs with them as a player over the years. They have a brilliant stadium. These lads are lucky, they are playing in a sport where you are playing in great stadiums. We may not have a crowd there but it’s still an impressive place to go and play.

“It’s a great draw, it’s a challenge, it’s the top level and we are looking forward to that already. We are back playing, we are lucky in the elite sport of rugby and we will take whatever format, particularly with the class of teams involved,” he added.

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John Fallon

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