Rowntree expects Saracens to ‘circle the wagons’ and show their class
Munster forwards’ coach plays down prop crisis in advance of Pro14 Edinburgh clash
Graham Rowntree: “We’ve got plenty of props. That’s one thing that has really impressed me, the depth and the class that we’ve got.” Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Munster forwards’ coach Graham Rowntree expects the class of Saracens to shine through next week in the first of their back-to-back Heineken Cup games at Thomond Park.
Next up at the venue is the visit of the European champions, and despite all their off-field problems with their fine and point deduction for breaching the Premiership’s salary cap, Rowntree thinks we’ll continue to see the best of Mark McCall’s side next week.
“You can’t deny the class of player, the class of the coaches and the class of their culture,” said Rowntree.
“I’ve been in and out of that group when I worked with England and they used to invite me down to look at training. You can’t deny the good thing that they have got going on there. I think that will shine through.
“I’m not here to comment about what’s been going on with them but I know there is a class of people and class of coaches there that regardless of what’s happening they will perform on the field. They will use it to circle the wagons.”
Despite playing the game for 17 years, Rowntree never played at Thomond Park and he got his first taste of the Champions Cup at the Limerick venue last weekend as Munster claimed a draw at the death against Racing 92. He says the atmosphere and standard of play was similar to a Test match.
“I’ve not been surprised, it has been everything I though it would be,” he said.
“The atmosphere Saturday night was nothing like I’d tasted before for a club game. It was like a Test match. It’s a special support, the boys appreciate that.
“We had our hands full, it was like a Test match against a quality Test-standard French pack. They were hard work, they turned up, they wanted to play. Crucially we didn’t lose it, but we could have won it. We were under the pump but we came through it.”
Before that crunch European tie with Saracens, Munster host Edinburgh in Cork this weekend, a key Conference B Pro14 game.
Plenty of props
And according to the former England international, he has no concerns about the depth of talent at prop despite injuries for Dave Kilcoyne and Jeremy Loughman.
Loughman sustained an ankle injury last weekend and was scheduled to have a scan on that on Wednesday to identify the extend of the damage, while Kilcoyne (calf) is still “a few weeks away” and has yet to feature for the province this season.
With the two looseheads sidelined, James Cronin, Brian Scott and Liam O’Connor are likely to battle it out for game-time in the next few week while academy player Josh Wycherley could also feature.
“We’ve got plenty of props. That’s one thing that has really impressed me, the depth and the class that we’ve got,” said Rowntree.
“Throughout pre-season and certainly now we have got the young academy lads training with us and they are doing very well. They have brought a real attitude and energy to training. We’re down a few props but that just means I can put more into the young guys, which I love.”