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'I have an affinity with Munster' | Graham Rowntree on 'impeccable' Van Graan and Larkham

Munster forward coach Graham Rowntree has ambitions of being a head coach and hopes to fulfil them at Thomond Park.


'I have an affinity with Munster' | Graham Rowntree on 'impeccable' Van Graan and Larkham

Munster forward coach Graham Rowntree has ambitions of being a head coach and hopes to fulfil them at Thomond Park.

With Johann van Graan and Stephen Larkham leaving Munster at the end of the current season, the position for head coach has yet to be filled.

Rowntree, who will be remaining at the province, is one of the few remaining members of the coaching ticket that is qualified to take over from the outgoing personnel.

He revealed his desire to see out the 'ongoing process' of appointing the new Munster head coach on The Red 78 podcast this week with Alan Quinlan and Niamh Briggs.

"Everybody knows my coaching aspirations and what I think of this club," Rowntree said. "There is a process, an ongoing process. It is not the quickest process ever, I have to say.

"It is still ongoing, and I really can't tell you any more than that."

Although he spent all of his playing days in England and with the Leicester Tigers, Rowntree admitted that he has a new-found affinity for the southern province.

"Since I've finished playing and started coaching, I've had a few jobs," Rowntree said. "Not loads. I've worked in different environments but I've never had the affinity or connection to a club like I have for Munster at the moment.

"Absolutely grounded people. There is a humility and a passion in the community. You can feel it."

Rowntree had never set foot in Thomond Park before his arrival as the forwards coach of Munster in 2019. This was after he was already removed from Eddie Jones' coaching ticket after the Australian coach took over at England in 2015.

However, Rowntree felt an immediate calling to Thomond as soon as he set foot in the 'cathedral of rugby' and has since become a mainstay of the community.

"Having played against Munster many times, I've never played at Thomond Park," Rowntree said. "Never! When I joined the club three years ago and went to Thomond for the first time, wow! That is a cathedral of rugby that is!

"I have an affinity with the club. I've moved my family over. They couldn't have settled in any better into the local community.

"My lad is playing more rugby and more sport than ever. I have three kids. I have a daughter of 22, and two boys of 19 and 15.

"My 19-year-old is over in Loughborough University, on the books for Leicester development team. My youngest son he is over at UL Bohs. He loves it!

"They couldn't have settled in any better!"

'I am loyal to a great man'

While Rowntree is hoping to take over as head coach at some point, for now he is happy to be working under Van Graan who he feels is still giving his all to the province.

"He is not just trying to give it his all, he is, quite frankly," Rowntree said. "Those lads are bang on, a thousand percent in terms of their diligence and their attention to their job."

The Englishman looked back at December when all of the news was breaking that he would be the sole survivor of the current coaching ticket.

"December was a messy month," Rowntree said. "Steve announced he was leaving, then the squad gets decimated with Omicron in South Africa. I was one of the ones left over there.

"In that month, Johann's announcement [came out], and in that week we are playing Wasps in the European Cup with a young group and British [& Irish] Lions group!

"You have got this team of young lads and old lads. We are playing that game, then we are playing Castres the week after in similar circumstances. It is madness! I am still in South Africa in isolation!

"Then we come back here, and the HSE, bless them, they make us do another 10 days isolation here just to be sure. So, I got out of isolation just before Christmas, but that month was crazy."

Since then, many have criticised the South African head coach, suggesting that his mind might already be on Bath. However, Rowntree feels that the outgoing pair or 'impeccable' coaches are still putting everything into Munster.

"I'm loyal to a great man!" Rowntree said. "Not just a great coach, a great man. That is what you get with sport. You get paid to deal with that pressure.

"Those coaches have been just impeccable with what they have been delivering day in and day out."

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6 Nations Rugby Alan Quinlan Andy Farrell Ben Healy Chris Farrell Denis Leamy Edinburgh France Gavin Coombes Glasgow Graham Rowntree Ireland Jack Crowley Jack O’Donoghue Joey Carbery Leinster Rugby Liam Coombes Lions Munster Munster Rugby Munster Zebo Niamh Birggs Niamh Briggs Quinlan Red 78 Rugby Scott Buckley Simon Zebo Six Nations The Red 78 The Rugby Channel URC United Rugby Championship Zebo