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Repeat: Off The Ball

Who will Munster look to in replacing Johann van Graan?

Alan Quinlan and Niamh Briggs have been reacting to today's surprising news that Johann van Graan is to leave Munster at the end of this season.

Who will Munster look to in re...

Who will Munster look to in replacing Johann van Graan?

Alan Quinlan and Niamh Briggs have given their thoughts on how they think Munster might move to replace the departing Johann van Graan.

The South African today revealed he has turned down a contract extension and will leave the province in June 2022. The 41-year-old succeeded Rassie Erasmus as head coach in November 2017, but won't be taking up the offer to stay.

Speaking on The Red 78 Podcast, former Munster and Ireland star Quinlan said opinions of van Graan as a coach may have differed outside the camp compared to inside.

"I think he's a good guy. I've had dealings with him - a very well-respected guy. But there's this expectation and pressure with Munster, and I have a feeling that Johann hasn't felt the love from outside the group.

"From what I hear internally he's very popular with the players, [there's] good morale, even though they've had to take a lot of ups and downs in the last couple of years.

"Maybe it's the outside influence on what Johann is feeling [that] has made this decision. The Munster fans are renowned for being wonderful fans and brilliant supporters of the team going right back to my time, but they're pretty demanding as well and impatient. And I think that impatience has increased in the last number of years."

Former Six Nations-winning Irish captain Briggs feels that Leinster's success in recent years may have helped triggered that impatience.

"I think a lot of it has to do with looking across the province borderlines and seeing what Leinster are doing, and the game that they play. It can be easier on the eye at times.

"We've spoken plenty of times about how difficult it is to win a trophy, especially in Europe. When you're up against the likes of the French teams that can pay a huge amount of wages and can attract players from all over the world - it can be really difficult to compete with that.

"Munster's ceiling the last number of years probably was around that semi-final berth. It might not be a popular thing to say but I think when you're up against the likes of the Racing's, the La Rochelle's, the Toulouse's, they're so stacked not from one to 15, but from one to 30. It's been really difficult for the Irish provinces to compete with that."

And who next for Munster? Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell are early favourites, but Quinlan says there is one name that stands out for him.

"It's difficult because you're two years out from a World Cup at international level. It is a big job and it will interest a lot of people throughout the world.

"Do Munster need to go outside of the group? One obvious candidate who has been there a number of years, he's moved his family over from the UK, bought a house, loves the club, I like him and I've played against him - and that's Graham Rowntree.

"He has a bit of an old-school approach, he's been involved in the modern game, he's been a forwards coach with Quins, the British & Irish Lions, England, Leicester, Georgia in recent years - is he someone that could be a candidate to keep the transition pretty smooth and take the head coach role?"

Briggs feels the southern province might go down a different route on this occasion when choosing van Graan's replacement.

"I'm not really sure. It's very different to go from a unit coach like a forwards coach or defence coach into a head coach role, you're dealing with a huge amount.

"I wonder will Munster go down the route of keeping in Rowntree, bringing in two more coaches and then having a Director of Rugby that's going to deal with everyting off the pitch, and allow those coaches to focus all their time and effort onto the pitch?

"I've no doubt van Graan probably struggled in that sense. I think it's really difficult with everything that's going on off the pitch to try and get clarity... it can be hard to separate it I've no doubt.

"I'd love to see them go down the Director of Rugby type of a role, filter down then to three or four coaches. If that's the case maybe a head coach role might suit Rowntree, but I do think it's important he stays."

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Alan Quinlan Champions Cup Graham Rowntree Joey Carbery Johann Van Graan Munster Munster Rugby Niamh Briggs Pro14 Quinny The Red 78