Howley in the running for Munster attack coach role

Van Graan refuses to confirm the possible appointment saying ‘as soon as I know we will make an announcement’

Rob Howley: former Wales and Lions scrumhalf could be on his way to Munster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Rob Howley: former Wales and Lions scrumhalf could be on his way to Munster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Johann van Graan refused to confirm the possible appointment of Rob Howley as Munster’s attack coach next season.

The legendary Wales and Lions scrumhalf was interviewed for the newly created position, the42.ie reported Sunday.

“I am not going to comment on it anymore,” said van Graan ahead of the Guinness Pro 14 awards in Dublin. “On Monday I said we are going to bring in another coach. As soon as I know we will make an announcement. I said we need to improve in all areas of the game.”

When asked if the latest addition to the province might be Howley, van Graan responded: “There are so many coaches all over the world. I have been asked previously about other coaches so I am not going to comment.”

Howley remains part of Warren Gatland’s Wales coaching ticket but it is already confirmed none of them will be retained when Wayne Pivac takes over after the World Cup. Defence guru Shaun Edwards is seeking new employers while Robin McBryde has been signed by Leinster to replace scrum coach John Fogarty, who joins Andy Farrell’s Ireland set-up in 2020.

Howley boasts an impressive record under Gatland even covering for him as Wales head coach in 2013 and 2017. However, his ability to relay tactical messages was heavily criticised by Seán O’Brien following the Lions tour of New Zealand.

“If I was being critical of any coach it would be the fact that I think Rob struggled with the group in terms of his attributes of trying to get stuff across,” said O’Brien. “Whereas Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell drove everything the second [Test]week, for instance, in our attack and had a better plan in place.

“If we had a little more structure during the weeks and more of an attack game plan driven [from] way earlier in the tour we could have won 3-0,” O’Brien added. “The coaches have a lot to answer for in terms of our attack.”

Meanwhile, Josh van der Flier is making a surprise recovery from groin surgery five weeks ahead of schedule and could return to face Munster in the Pro 14 semi-final on May 18th at the RDS.

Ticking boxes

“That’s what I’m aiming for, I’ve a good bit of running under my belt now, if training goes well, hopefully I’ll be available, that’s the goal,” said can der Flier.

The Leinster open side flanker sustained the injury against France on March 10th.

“I’ve just been hoping to be back training this week, and hopefully that goes well. I’ve been working with Fearghal Kerin and the medical staff at Leinster, they’ve been brilliant, the surgeon did a good job obviously, and I’ve just been given targets to hit each week and been told ‘once you hit this strength target you can progress on to this’, so it hasn’t been rushing back, it’s been systematic, ticking boxes.

“I was told it would be 12 weeks, don’t rush back, just see how you get on, then we can review if it goes well.”

Despite being ruled out until Ireland’s World Cup warm-up matches in August, the 26-year-old took a different view.

“I hadn’t [given up on this season] at all. Fearghal was telling me ‘you have to accept the season’s over’, but I was in my head thinking it would be quite sad if that was the case so I just fooled myself to stay positive that maybe I could get back early. I never let myself believe it would be the end of the season, but logically it looked more than likely, but I’m happy to be where I am.”

Ulster coach Dan McFarland confirmed that Luke Marshall underwent a head injury assessment during Saturday’s victory over Connacht when replaced for 13 minutes by Darren Cave.

“There was a HIA so he will go through the protocols.”

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