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Bath confirm Van Graan signing after Munster boss invoked release clause

It’s understood that the South African had some frustrations behind the scenes in Munster.

Van Graan will leave Munster next summer.
Van Graan will leave Munster next summer.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

BATH HAVE CONFIRMED that current Munster head coach Johann van Graan has signed for the English club.

Van Graan will join Bath as head coach ahead of next season on what the Premiership side say is a “long-term contract.”

Yesterday, Munster had confirmed that van Graan would leave the province next summer.

The42 understands that van Graan had actually signed a new two-year contract with Munster and the IRFU last summer.

However, van Graan has now invoked the six-month release clause that Rassie Erasmus previously used to leave Munster for South Africa and that Pat Lam triggered to depart Connacht to join Bristol.

The42 understands that Bath’s strong offer proved hard for van Graan to ignore but it is also thought that the South African had certain frustrations behind the scenes at Munster in recent months.

The province has benefited from generous private investment from a group of wealthy individuals known as ‘The 1014′ in recent seasons, particularly in signing Springbok World Cup winners Damian de Allende and RG Snyman – both of whom are now also expected to leave at the end of this season.

However, it’s thought that van Graan has had issues with the level of influence that the same private investors have been exerting within the province.

Munster CEO Ian Flanagan, who joined in 2019, is part of the province’s Professional Game Committee [PGC] along with the likes of former players John Kelly and Mick O’Driscoll, as well as van Graan in his position as head coach.

The PGC is intended to be the key influence in all professional rugby matters in Munster, but it’s understood that van Graan has felt some outside pressure around player signings and squad planning more recently. That said, it’s thought the outside backers were also keen to see a greater return on their investment into the province. Munster have not yet won a trophy during van Graan’s tenure.

It appears that when Bath then came in with a very strong offer – both financially and in terms of the contract’s duration – van Graan had his head turned and invoked the six-month clause that is part of the IRFU’s coaching contracts.

The IRFU are understood to be extremely frustrated with the circumstances of van Graan’s departure, which came hot on the heels of Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham declining a two-year contract offer to return to the Brumbies in Australia at the end of season.

stephen-larkham Stephen Larkham is also leaving this summer. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Munster still owing the IRFU several million euros on the union’s loan which allowed them to redevelop Thomond Park and with further disruption on the coaching front, it’s believed that the union has frustrations with the southern province at present. 

Bath today confirmed the signing of van Graan as they look to begin a major rebuild. The club has long had strong financial investment from owner Bruce Craig and key sponsor James Dyson, but haven’t matched it with any on-pitch success.

The club has excellent facilities and some top-class players. Van Graan is set to replace current head coach Neal Hatley and work alongside director of rugby Stuart Hooper.

“I am hugely excited for the opportunity to join Bath for the 2022/23 season,” said van Graan. “I see huge potential in this club, the players, coaches, and staff. I am coming to Bath to work with everyone and to achieve great success with everyone at the club.

“This is an exciting next step for me as a coach, and for my family in moving to a proud club and a true rugby city.”

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Bath director of rugby Hooper hailed van Graan as “a phenomenal coach with a proven track record of developing teams to be successful on the pitch,” while the club’s CEO, Tarquin McDonald, expressed his delight at sealing the deal.

“Johann is a world-class coach who will play a fundamental role in our future success,” said McDonald.

“He will hold full responsibility for our game, focused on delivering winning performances. I am delighted to announce this appointment and look forward to welcoming Johann and his family to Bath this summer.”

Munster and the IRFU, meanwhile, must find two new leading coaches to succeed van Graan and Larkham. 

Munster defence coach JP Ferreira is out of contract this summer and could follow van Graan to Bath, although it’s understood the province are hopeful of hanging on to forwards coach Graham Rowntree, whose current deal is also set to expire at the end of the season.

A number of ex-Munster players are now being linked with the vacant head coach position, including current Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland and Racing 92 attack coach Mike Prendergast.

South African coach Dave Wessels is another name thought to be under consideration, having come close to joining Munster before van Graan was signed in 2017. Wessels was in charge of the Melbourne Rebels in recent years but stepped down from that role earlier this year and is currently available.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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