Love for coaching, playing career lessons and managerial responsibilities | Graham Rowntree opens up on Rugby Career

Rowntree was appointed as Munster head coach earlier in 2022 after a couple of seasons in Johann van Graan’s coaching ticket.

Munster head coach and former England rugby international Graham Rowntree opened up on his managerial career and similarities between coaching and playing.

The 51-year-old enjoyed a prolonged playing career the Leicester Tigers, spanning 17 years where he made 398 appearances. The side were also where he had his first coaching gig, lasting a year before being appointed as the forwards coach for England.

Rowntree was a part of the team until 2015, leaving after the disappointing World Cup campaign for England. Harlequins were next on the list with a stint in Georgia following shortly before he took up the opportunity as Munster forwards coach in 2019.

A Covid-blighted few years would follow, but that didn’t prevent Rowntree of the opportunity to become Munster head coach this year. The former English international knew that this was the career-path he wanted to take, even while he was playing.

“I love coaching. I knew before I finished playing I wanted to coach, I was doing a bit with the Leicester academy, weekly and I just had a taste of it, I just loved making lads better, being on the pitch with them, getting them ready for the weekend.”

“I can’t think of doing anything else as a career.”

Growing up in Leicester, Rowntree sees plenty of similarities between his hometown and Munster, with both places having a sense of ‘humility’ and a grafting attitude where hard work is the only option to achieve what they desire.

(Similarities between Munster and Leicester) “It’s a working class town club, there’s a humility within the people that support the club and an expectation and a desire to get better. Good people, it’s the same as the people that I grew up with at Leicester, that humility. Grafters”

Regarding whether the former British and Irish Lion was ready take up a role in coaching, Rowntree believed that it was the right time for him to step up.

He believes that his experiences as both a player and a coach, as well as his understanding of the game were enough to assure him he was ready for the opportunity and maybe a few years ago he wouldn’t have taken it up.

“You’ve got to feel like it’s the right time, that you’ve got enough knowledge in the game and the affinity I have with the club is right and I feel I know enough about the game, I’ve been through enough experiences the highs and the lows and learnt from them, it just felt the right time.”

29 October 2019; New Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree during Munster Rugby squad training at University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rowntree’s coaching team consists of Denis Leamy, Mike Prendergast and Andy Kyriacou, which he selected upon his appointment.

The head coach explained his reasons of choice and the traits he looks for in his fellow coaches.

“Simplicity, a similar view of the game to me, good craic and a history with the club, the guys will all know and respect.”

“You’re never going to gel all the time, you want healthy conflict and I think that my job as a head coach is to manage that. I don’t want anyone in the corner sat frustrated on the other side I don’t want a fight in every coaches meeting and that’s up to me as a coach to manage that and get the best out of these guys.”

12 December 2021; Munster elite player development officer Andy Kyriacou during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool B match between Wasps and Munster at Coventry Building Society Arena in Coventry, England. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rowntree summarised his goals ahead of his tenure with Munster. It’s been a rocky couple of years for the province but the Englishman is aware of the recent form and plans to bring that to a halt by perfecting the matters that are in his control.

“Get the lads better every day, win the next game [on a game by game basis], because I can control that. [If] we get that right, get the day right, get the week right, get that game right then we’ll win and that leads to trophies.”

See full interview below:

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