Champions Cup positions up for grabs as Munster return to Musgrave Park

Champions Cup positions up for grabs as Munster return to Musgrave Park
Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

MUNSTER’S newest addition to their coaching staff, Graham Rowntree, will have a lot of insight into the head coach on the opposite side on Friday night.

He has played with Richard Cockerill at club and international level as well as working under him at Leicester so he will have spent the week with his Munster pack working on the detail that he knows Cockerill will bring to the game in Musgrave Park.

Rowntree expects Edinburgh to be a handful because of the way they stick to their game plan, a plan that is hard to break down.

The pair still remain good friends off the field but that will change for about an hour and a half this evening.

“He's a good mate of mine. He's done well there, hasn't he? Cockers is a great coach.

“I played with him, then I worked for him when I first finished playing at Leicester as a player-coach, basically coaching the Academy, and he was my boss.

“He's a good coach, good detail, and a good motivator as well. He understands the game very well.

“He's got that team motivated, they're going to be a handful. We're doing a lot of analysis on them, they have a plan and they stick to it, and they are physical as well. They're already talking about what a big game this is on the road for them, but it's a big game for us as well, another home game. I'm looking forward to seeing him. I think!” he says with a grin.

One of the players that Rowntree has worked with since his arrival has been Stephen Archer. The way the Corkman, who plays for his 200th time tonight for Munster, goes quietly about his business and has impressed the Reds forwards coach.

“He quietly gets on with things. There's a quiet confidence about Steve. They've all got quirky senses of humour. They've all got about 10 nicknames as well and I love the banter with the lads, when I can understand them,” he says with another smile. 

“But Steve quietly goes about his business, very professional, and the lads all respect him for that. I'll be delighted and proud of him when he runs out this week.” 

Graham Rowntree during Munster training. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Graham Rowntree during Munster training. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The visitors are just five points behind Munster in Conference B and Munster can’t afford a slip up.

That will present its own challenges for Rowntree but he reckons his old pal Cockerill will have his team psyched to the last to come to Cork and take something from Munster and using last week’s European game against Racing as a way to get at the Reds.

“Of course, we respect this team. We'd a right ding-dong with them last year in Europe, and they're going well. They're well-coached and I know his [Cockerill's] psyche and what he'll be thinking and what he'll be challenging his lads to do coming down Friday night. So we've got a proper game on our hands and that's what we're planning for,” says the forwards coach.

With the number of changes Munster will make for this game and with squad places up for grabs for the back-to-back Champions Cup games against Saracens, this is a huge chance for younger players to shine.

Rowntree expects nothing less.

“I've every confidence that there will be a lot of guys putting hands up for selection because we wouldn't be playing them if they weren't capable of doing that. I anticipate a few more guys making selection next week an even greater challenge,” says the forwards coach.

Just as there were changes this week, it follows that there will more changes next weekend again as Munster play their third game of a block of 13 this evening. It is up to the management to make sure that players are ready for the step up if needed.

Rowntree is seeing no signs of fall-off in intensity levels this week regardless of what competition Munster are playing in.

“We're certainly not seeing that in training. Intensity? We just had a cracking session now. It's not been perfect but you don't always want it perfect in the week. No, I don't think we're anticipating any troughs. The lads have trained well and we've got a depth of squad now that we're picking a team to win this game.”

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