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The message Declan Kidney has for new Munster boss Rowntree

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Two-time Heineken Cup winner Declan Kidney has given his reaction to ex-England assistant Graham Rowntree becoming the new head coach at Munster, the Irish province that the current London Irish boss led to glory in 2006 and 2008 before moving on to lead Ireland to Six Nations Grand Slam glory in 2009. 

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Kidney’s two stints in charge at Munster are well documented, how they endured repeated heartbreak and lost two European finals during his initial tenure as boss from 1997 through to 2002 and then his return from 2005 to 2008 where they were twice crowned champions of Europe.  

So revered is Kidney still at the province that his name was quickly linked to a third stint in charge when it was confirmed last December that Johann van Graan, the current Munster head coach, had handed in his notice and would quit for Bath for the 2022/23 season. 

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However, Kidney dismissed that link as speculation at the time, insisting he was more than happy with the London Irish project he has invested himself in since March 2018. He has now offered his best wishes to Rowntree after Munster finally confirmed on Tuesday that he will be promoted from forwards coach to head coach following a four-month recruitment process.  

Asked by RugbyPass if he had a message for incoming Munster boss Rowntree, Kidney said: “I congratulate Graham. I haven’t met the man but I congratulate him and wish him all the very best with the job and I am sure he will enjoy it. 

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“It’s a big job in world rugby and hopefully he will enjoy it. He has been in the club for two to three years now already so he will have that advantage going into it and (my message is) just to be himself, just enjoy the whole experience.

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“Look, I’m in a very good job,” he added about being linked with the Munster vacancy over the winter. “The club that I’m working with at the moment is fantastic and we are on our own pathway with that. I had some fantastic times with Munster and it was a privilege to be there in the early days and going through that part of the journey with them.

“For anybody coming into it they are going to enjoy the experience because it is a great club and, as I said, it’s one of the biggest jobs you can get in club rugby in the world.”

The thing with Munster and its massive support is that whoever is the head coach is never too far away from being directly told the latest opinion from the person on the street, especially when out and about getting their milk and bread in the local shop. How will Rowntree react to that focus when all eyes are on him from July for the next two years?

“Well, there is an upside and a downside in everything like that,” reckoned Kidney. “You might get a discount on the milk if you win. Who’s to know. Like, different clubs have different types of experiences. When you are in a big city it’s one type of experience. When you are a more local club like Gloucester or an Exeter I’m sure it’s that bit different as well then too and that is what Munster are like.”

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Munster haven’t scaled the heights in Europe and lifted the trophy since Kidney’s departure in 2008. They currently trail Exeter by five points heading into their round-of-16 second leg tie this Saturday in Limerick following last weekend’s 13-8 result at Sandy Park.

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