Graham Rowntree says IRFU aware of his coaching ambitions

Munster forwards coach could offer appealing continuity if asked to replace van Graan

Graham Rowntree remained coy when asked if he was interested in the soon-to-be vacant Munster head coach role. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Graham Rowntree has batted away questions about whether he wants to become Munster head coach but says the province and the IRFU are well aware of his coaching ambitions.

The former England prop, brought in as forwards coach just over two years ago after working with Georgia at the World Cup, has committed his future to Munster to 2024 and said it was an easy decision to remain.

The future of defence coach JP Ferreira remains unclear amid speculation he may follow head coach Johann van Graan to Bath. And with Stephen Larkham returning to Australia to take charge of the Brumbies next summer, the continuity offered today by Rowntree has been well received by Munster fans.

But Rowntree, who has previously worked with Leicester Tigers, Harlequins, England and the Lions, is remaining coy about whether his ambitions extend to taking over the top job from van Graan.


“I’m delighted to be re-signed in my current capacity. The head coach question, well that’s one for another day. But what I can tell you is that the club and all the parties concerned are very aware of my coaching aspirations.”

Rowntree said he didn’t have to deliberate for long in deciding to stay and, notwithstanding the coaching upheaval, he’s looking forward to the next few seasons.

“I think I’ve said before what I think of the club and the people here. My family have settled really well. I asked to sign for five years but they wouldn’t have it. I’m just enjoying my time here and I’m delighted.

“The players are a humble group who want to get better. My job is to help them get better day in, day out. My family have been well received and it’s important in our world to have good balance of work and play time - I’ve enjoyed that here. And I’m enjoying working with the coaches and players, that’s it really.”

The decision by van Graan and Larkham to move on at the end of the season did not impact on him in choosing to remain.

“No, you can only control what you can and I can only do what’s best for me and my family and my career. I can’t control all of that.

“Obviously, there’s a bit going on there and it has been well documented but I’m just delighted that I’ll be able to commit and put another two years in.”

Rowntree and the rest of the Munster management have plenty of immediate problems on their hands at the moment to concern them, not least how they respond to last weekend’s flat performance against Connacht as they prepare to welcome Ulster to Thomond Park on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship.

“I’d say it was a tad more than disappointing,” said Rowntree about the 10-8 loss in Galway. “Very frustrating. We had some good clearing-the-air meetings yesterday because that wasn’t good enough from us. It just wasn’t good enough at all.

“We still lost by two points but we didn’t control key areas of the game, particularly around territory. We didn’t have enough starter plays in their third in the second half in particular. They had plenty of starter plays, I think they had 20 lineouts and they were a handful off all of those.

“They mauled well. They took us on at a perceived strength of ours there, they tried to maul us over the line six times and they did on one, scored a good try. I saw Dewald Senekal after the game, I shook his hand, I think he’s done a great job with that forward pack and Collie Tucker around the set-piece and defence.

“They were a proper handful on Saturday night and we should have done better. We’ve had a good look at ourselves because that wasn’t good enough and there’s no one in the club who will say anything different to that.”