Graham Rowntree could scarcely conceal his excitement at the though of becoming the new head coach of Munster from next July 11st and has already begun the process of identifying a team off assistants.
“It’s excellent. It was a thorough process. All done now, we can crack on. Not that I was distracted by any means, but it was quite consuming. Now we crack on, and crack on with Saturday’s game in particular,” said Rowntree of next Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 second leg tie against Exeter, which Munster trail by 13-8 after last Saturday’s first leg.
Rowntree will need to hire a new attack/backs coach, defence coach and a forwards coach to replace himself when he succeeds the Bath-bound Johan van Graan.
“I’m already speaking to people, obviously. Throughout the process, I’ve had to have a plan to present. We’ll continue that without getting distracted.”
In the meantime, Rowntree said of van Graan: “He’s the boss until the 30th of June. Nothing changes on that coaching side of things, nothing changes in that dynamic. He’s the boss. I enjoy working for the man.”
Rowntree has built a strong attachment to Munster since joining their coaching ticket after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, likening it to Leicester, where he spent his entire 17-year playing career.
“It’s very much like the environment that I grew up with in Leicester. Very down to earth, humble group of people. Very passionate, a big supporter base who are mad about their rugby, enjoy the craic, say no more.”
Now, having spent 15 years as a specialist scrum and forwards coach, Rowntree says the time is right for him to assume the role of a head coach.
“I’m ready. I just feel I’m ready, and I know the club feels it’s the right time. I learned a lot, you get to a point in your career where you’re comfortable about making the step up with the experiences you’ve been through. That’s why I threw my heat in the ring, and luckily I got it.”
More pressing though is next Saturday’s second leg.
Reflecting on last week’s 13-8 defeat, having trailed 10-0 at the break, Rowntree said: “I was happy with the second half. The fight we showed, particularly our goal line defence was pleasing in the second half. It’s been widely stated our first half wasn’t good enough, particularly the first quarter. We addressed that.
“ That goal line stand at the end of the game, that’s what we stand for. On the back of that fight, we have a team coming to our place, and it’s going to be one hell of a game, but I’m delighted with how we ended the game. It will be another tough one this weekend.”