Settled Graham Rowntree happy to commit his future to Munster

Ambitious forwards coach and former Lion believes province are making real progress

Graham Rowntree: ‘The club and the IRFU both know my aspirations in my coaching career, put it that way.’ Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Graham Rowntree said it's important that there is a good mix of personalities in a management team but that it's not necessary to have multiple nationalities involved for it to be successful.

All four Irish provinces have a mix of foreign and Irish coaches on board and forwards coach Rowntree, the only one of the current senior coaching staff to commit to Munster beyond next summer after yesterday announcing a two-year extension, said the most important thing is that there is a good mix of personalities involved rather than where they are from.

“I think you need a good balance of characters. You need people who get on. In the coaching groups I’ve worked in, the best ones have been people who get on, enjoy a beer together,” said Rowntree, who joined Munster over two years ago after working with Georgia at the World Cup.

“You’ve got to have a good balance. Nationality wise, no I don’t think there is a specific successful formula out there.”


Rowntree’s role with Munster could change next summer and, while he was coy about throwing his hat into the ring to succeed Johann van Graan, he made it clear that the province and the IRFU are fully aware of his ambitions.

“That’s a very direct question! Very personal question,” he responded when asked yesterday at the weekly press conference if he would like to become Munster head coach at some stage.

“I’m not wanting to have conversations about this today, it’s not right today. As I keep saying, the club and the IRFU both know my aspirations in my coaching career, put it that way. It’s not something I want to talk about today.”

The 50-year-old, who won 54 caps for England, three for the Lions and played almost 400 games for Leicester Tigers, said the decision of van Graan to head to Bath and Stephen Larkham to the Brumbies, had little bearing on what he decided to do.

“That’s sport, that’s business, and that’s professionals sport. You crack on. Johann was very emotional when he told us, that’s been well documented. He’s got his reasons for doing it but what you do know from Johann and Steve, they’ll give 1,000 percent until the end of the season to leave a legacy.

“I think that week when it was announced, there was a lot going on, we had guys going in and out of isolation, there is a lot of turmoil at the club, it’s been a crazy month.

“I spent most of my time in isolation, I’m not afraid to tell you that now. But all I can say is the way they have handled it and their professionalism and their dignity is very much intact and the guys respect them for that, and we trust them that they’ll be giving everything until the end of the season.”

Top job

He wasn’t of a mind to wait and see who might get the top job before he committed his own future.

“No, I’d not given that any consideration. Like, I knew what my role is, my area of responsibility and the guys who I have the pleasure of working with day in, day out. I know the calibre of the men there and I wanted to continue doing that.”

Nor does he see the coaching changes having any impact.

“No. It’s done and there’s always something else to look forward to. It’s another story. Guys speak honestly, it’s hard to take for a few hours. You think about it, put it in context and you look forward. There’s always something coming around the corner.

“I think these guys are used to it. This is professional sport, it’s the same as player contracts, player movements, you’ve got to deal with it in the moment and move on. There’s always something else to be thinking about.”

There is uncertainty whether defence coach JP Ferreira, who van Graan brought to Munster from South Africa, will remain after next summer but Rowntree, who regarded himself as ‘a Tipp man’ after he set up home in Ballina on the Tipperary-Clare border after moving to Ireland, said his family have settled here.

“It’s a rugby-mad community and they’ll let you know when you’ve not performed, believe me, they’re just very warm, very welcoming. My son settled in at school. You get a good feel for a place, and the nature of the people, the humility of the people and it’s just like the group that I grew up with and they’re very happy.

“And that’s all we do it for, right? For our families to make them happy and that’s got to be right. I’m very lucky that mine are settled in so that makes my job easier.”

He firmly believes that the work being done in training has not yet been fully reflected on the field but, for him, there has been one particular achievement in his time with Munster.

“Well I’d have to say the conveyor belt of guys coming through and that connection right down into the school base is something that we’re striving to get better, and that connection to the AIL clubs which is pretty good.

“That conveyor belt of Munster lads coming through and you add your sprinkle of stardust from overseas players and we’re just making those lads better, and that’s good for us and that’s good for Ireland, and a lot of it you won’t consistently see enough in our performance but I can see on the training field, I can see in their individual development.

“And just seeing that just makes me proud, and just makes me pleased.”

Whether he will be overseeing that as forwards coach, maybe senior coach or even in the top job remains to be seen but for now Rowntree, who won four English Premiership titles and two Heineken Cup crowns, sees Munster as his future.