Tricky URC opener for Munster 

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree, right, with Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast before the pre-season friendly match between Munster and London Irish at Musgrave Park in Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

LIFE under new Head Coach Graham Rowntree – along with Mike Prendergast, attack, Andi Kyriacou, forwards, and Denis Leamy, defence – will begin for Munster with a tricky BKT United Rugby Championship opener against Cardiff Blues at The Arms Park on Saturday, kick-off 3.05pm.

The match was due to go ahead the previous night, but the organisers pushed it out to the following afternoon stating that “significant logistical challenges have occurred due to the visit of Britain’s King Charles III and the British Queen’s Consort to Cardiff on September 16”.

“Broadcast facilities for both the host broadcaster (BBC Wales) and other TV facilities providers will be engaged in the coverage of the visit and the drain on available resources has resulted in the rescheduling of the game.”

Rowntree enjoyed a decorated playing career – Leicester Tigers/England/British and Irish Lions – before making the step into the coaching world in 2006, spending one season as assistant forwards coach with Tigers, the club for whom he made almost 400 appearances. 

After 19 years at Welford Road, he then took on a job with the RFU’s National Academy, before quickly climbing up the ladder again, joining the England set-up in the summer of 2007, working as a specialist scrum coach.

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Rowntree had a few more stops to hit before arriving to the top post in Munster, taking in roles with the Lions (2013 and 2017) and Harlequins before a surprise move to Georgia.

“I know he’s at a club he has a lot of respect for, because we had that respect for Munster as players and coaches in our Leicester days,” Tigers legend John Wells told 

“We played Munster in the European Cup final in 2002, I’m actually sitting here looking at a picture of it now, then we lost to them in 2003 (quarter-final). On both occasions, both teams were niggly, belligerent… My feelings on both Leicester and Munster are very, very similar – both are clubs that want to do whatever it takes to try win the game, but a lot of that is down to physical and mental toughness.” 

Added Wells: “He’s very understated, but he’s incredibly driven and he wants to be the best he can be at anything he turns his hand to.”

Munster are fancied to win this opener and are priced-up at 15/2 to claim outright victory in the URC, a competition for which Leinster have been made firm 4/7 favourites. 

Quarter-final draw, Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Challenge Cup (fixtures to be played this weekend): Clonmel v Young Munster; Cork Constitution v Cashel; Garryowen v Nenagh Ormonde; and Shannon v Highfield.