Rowntree has taken over as Munster's head coach. Ben Brady/INPHO
New gig

Munster boss Rowntree not trying to 'reinvent the wheel' as new era begins

The head coach says he has made tweaks to the province’s approach to training.

NEW MUNSTER HEAD coach Graham Rowntree says he’s not looking to “reinvent the wheel” as he leads the province into what fans hope will be a successful new era.

Ex-England international prop Rowntree first joined Munster as forwards coach in 2019 but has stepped up to the top job this summer, succeeding Johann van Graan following the South African’s departure for Bath.

Last season was a disappointing one for Munster as they agonisingly lost to Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-finals and meekly went down to Ulster in the URC quarter-finals.

With a brand new coaching team of Mike Prendergast, Denis Leamy, and Andi Kyriacou around him, Rowntree says he has made tweaks to Munster’s approach as he bids for improvement in the 2022/23 campaign.

Munster began their pre-season programme at the end of July and now have their Ireland internationals back in training. Rowntree’s men have their first pre-season game on Friday against Gloucester at Musgrave Park in Cork.

“It’s gone pretty good, not perfect, but so far so good,” said Rowntree this afternoon in his first press conference as head coach.

“We made quite a few changes in what we’re doing on the field and within the environment, but the lads have adapted well. I can’t fault their energy. The lads have been fantastic, but they’re just getting used to how we train.”

While Rowntree rejected the suggestion that he will change Munster’s style of play, he underlined that he has made “a few tweaks to what we do” in their preparation.

“Just in terms of how we train, what the working day looks like, just putting my stamp on it, and you’ll hopefully see on Friday night the fruits of our labour, without trying to give anything away.

graham-rowntree This is Rowntree's first head coaching gig. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel by any means, but obviously there are a few little changes and adjustments to how we train and how we play that you will hopefully see come through.”

While some head coaches step away from on-field coaching duties in order to oversee their team’s overall programme, Rowntree confirmed that he will continue to do some coaching himself this season.

He did, however, stress that attack specialist Prendergast and his other assistants will be given time and space to lead their specific areas.

“He [Prendergast] is the brains, he’s got free rein to run the attack,” said Rowntree. “Denis the same, Kyri with the forwards.

“I’m still coaching, I don’t think I’ll ever stop coaching. I’m always on the field.

“They’re very much cracking on with it and have grabbed the bull by the horns. Crikey, they’ve got some energy on the field, and in meetings as well. The lads can really appreciate it, the lads are feeding off that, and we’ve had some good discussions in our meetings, and some good training.”

As well as the new coaching staff, Munster have welcomed in some fresh faces into their playing squad.

Tonga centre Malakai Fekitoa has joined from Wasps, Irish-qualified midfielder Antoine Frisch has signed from Bristol, and 21-year-old Irish-qualified hooker Chris Moore has come in from the University of Exeter in England.

“I’ve been impressed by how they’ve adapted to a different environment, different climate, different way of doing things, different people,” said Rowntree of the new additions.

graham-rowntree Rowntree watches on at Munster training. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

“Chris has come from a university background and fitted into a pro rugby team very well. Malakai’s reputation is fantastic and he’s fitted in very well with the young guys. Antoine quietly goes about his business but he’s classy, a classy player.

“In fact, all three of them are classy players. I’ve been impressed by how they’ve fitted in on and off the field, importantly.”

Rowntree confirmed that Munster are “all done” on the recruitment front ahead of the new season.

The southern province have welcomed Ireland international prop Dave Kilcoyne and wing/centre Liam Coombes back from injury in recent weeks, while Frisch has also fully recovered from a shoulder issue.

Flanker John Hodnett is close to a full return to training after his knee injury, although Andrew Conway and Jack Daly both remain sidelined with knee injuries.

Springboks lock RG Snyman is in the same boat as he continues his recovery from an ACL re-rupture. The South African will be a key figure whenever he gets back on the pitch but he won’t be available for the opening rounds of the URC season.

“I’m not going to give you a date, I can’t give you a date,” said Rowntree.

“Not initially, put it that way. We are not… I am not going to rush RG Snyman back but he won’t be available to us initially.”

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