Rassie Erasmus keeps focus strictly on Munster job

Munster director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, enjoying a week off from active duty, has made little of reports linking him with the top job back home in South Africa. But he has still been a busy man, putting plans in place to ensure that under his stewardship his Munster charges continue their upward curve.
Rassie Erasmus keeps focus strictly on Munster job

Erasmus is pleased Munster can rest up for the next seven days after a hectic programme since last September although he could surely do without the news from Johannesburg suggesting the South African Union are prepared to buy out his Munster contract and offer a five-year contract. His solicitor has denied any approach has been made.

Instead, he has been keeping his eye very much on the Munster job and yesterday confirmed that Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell, Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams and Darren Sweetnam have all signed contract extensions, while Chris Farrell, JJ Hanrahan and James Hart will join the province next season.

“I’ve always indicated our intention to recruit Irish qualified players where and when possible”, said Erasmus, rebuffing those who felt he had received favourable treatment from the IRFU after being allowed to retain South African centre Jaco Taute to the end of the season along with New Zealander Francis Saili.

“To secure the young trio of Farrell, Hanrahan and Hart is great for the province and Irish rugby in general.

“I’ve talked about maximising our potential time and time again. Retaining players such as Killer (Dave Kilcoyne), Niall, Rory, Tyler, Duncan and Sweets (Darren Sweetnam) is key to our long-term plans.

“Developing home-grown players is at the core of everything we do and it’s rewarding to see five players who have advanced from the Munster pathway commit their future to the club while also recognising the efforts of Tyler who has overcome long-term injury to make his mark this season.”

The return of J J Hanrahan will be warmly welcomed by every member of the Red Army. There was deep disappointment when he was allowed to join Northampton Saints at the end of the 2015 season although at the time he was unable to command a regular place at either out-half or centre and was often used in the unaccustomed position of full-back.

It was clear at the time that he didn’t want to leave Munster and that he would be back some day. The Kerryman, who has made 30 appearances for the Saints and missed much of this season’s campaign because of injury, has yet to realise the considerable potential he displayed in his schoolboy days at Rockwell College. But at the age of 24 there is every reason to believe his best days are still be ahead of him.

Along with Chris Farrell and James Hart, Hanrahan has signed a two-year contract. Farrell, 23, is in his third season at Grenoble where he has made 70 appearances, scoring 10 tries. A former Ireland U20s player, the Belfast-born centre first played professional rugby with Ulster. Powerfully built (6 ft 3ins, 16 st 3 lbs), Hart may be in line to take over a centre position from Saili, who signed a two-year contract in 2015, and Taute, who is with the province until the end of this campaign. One or both, of course, could still be retained in any future development.

Currently with Racing 92, scrumhalf Hart has made 12 appearances this season, his most recent as a replacement in last Saturday’s clash at Thomond Park. Before joining Racing, the 25-year-old played his rugby with Farrell at Grenoble, making 60 appearances.

There was further positive news with contract extensions for out-half Tyler Bleyendaal and home-grown talents prop Dave Kilcoyne, the Scannell brothers, hooker Niall and centre Rory, scrum half Duncan Williams and winger Darren Sweetnam. Kilcoyne will remain with the province until June 2020, while the others have signed extensions until at least June 2019.

Of the nine mentioned in yesterday’s bulletin, only out-half Bleyendaal is not Irish qualified but that will change next season when a continuation of his current form could see the Kiwi become a number ten of considerable interest to Joe Schmidt.

Tomás O’Leary, who joined Top 14 side Montpellier on a short-term loan in October, will not be returning to the province. The 33-year-old scrumhalf made 145 appearances in the red jersey scoring 10 tries.

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