Munster Head Coach Johann van Graan is to leave at the end of this season. Photo: Gruffydd Thomas/Sportsfile

Munster fans hope for ROG and POC return next year

There’s set to be major changes at Munster Rugby next season with supporters hoping that former Munster players Ronan O’Gara, Mike Prendergast and Paul O’Connell might be part of a new coaching dream team.

On Tuesday morning Munster Rugby announced that Head Coach Johann van Graan has decided to leave the province at the end of the current season, when his contract is to end.

Van Graan was offered a two-year contract extension but decided to end his time with Munster at the end of June 2022. He is believed to be joining Bath Rugby next season.

Senior Coach Stephen Larkham is also leaving at the end of the season after he declined an extended contract offer citing personal reasons to return to Australia with his family.

This means there are at least two positions to be filled and Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree’s contract is also up in the summer.

Paul O’Connell is currently Ireland’s forwards coach contracted through to the 2023 World Cup and seems happy in the position.

Ronan O’Gara is coach of French Top 14 side La Rochelle with a recent contract until 2024 and he is happy in France, praising the league as the best in the world. He would need to be bought out of his contract by the IRFU, who directly employ Munster Rugby’s head coach.

Yesterday Mike Prendergast was favourite for the role with one bookmaker but he too has a contract for next year. He is currently attack coach with Racing 92 in France, where he has worked for a number of years.

Johann van Graan explained his decision to leave: “After arriving during the 2017/18 season, I am now into my fifth season with this group and in putting Munster first I believe it’s the right decision for me to call time on my contribution and step away at the end of this season.”

“My family and I settled well into life here, this is our home, and in an ideal world we would love to continue living in Limerick, but I’ve been looking at the bigger picture.

“While we have achieved so much together, and still have over six months of the season remaining, I wanted any uncertainty about my future addressed as early as possible. It has been an incredible journey and I’m hugely proud of this group for everything we have done to-date ,” he added.

Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan added, “We will be disappointed to see Johann go at the end of the season, he will be widely missed after forming such close relationships across the organisation.

“Johann has been a valued addition to the province and integral to all the successes we have achieved over the past four years. His hands-on approach and tireless work ethic have ensured the structures are well in place for continued success and we know he will continue to deliver on all fronts for the remainder of the season.

“For now, we are working closely with the IRFU in looking to identify suitable replacements with the confirmed departures of both Johann and Steve (Larkham) next summer.”