Exeter fear Jack Nowell will need an operation after fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket against Newcastle on Saturday. The England wing, as reported on Tuesday, is certain to miss the next month of the season and could be sidelined until December if the injury does not heal swiftly.
“Jack has got a couple of fractures in the top of his cheek and eye socket and it looks as if it will require surgery to settle it down,” said Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby, ahead of the club’s European Champions Cup opener against Glasgow on Saturday. “We don’t quite know yet how long it will be until he sees the consultant but it looks as if it could be six to eight weeks. It’s always a blow when you lose good players but we’re big believers that if one person picks up an injury it’s an opportunity for someone else.
“This injury was just one of those unfortunate ones, an innocuous situation. Jack is frustrated as he has been feeling good to go and wanted a couple of good Champions Cup performances to put him in the frame for England.”
Munster have confirmed South Africa’s forwards coach, Johann van Graan, as their new head coach, replacing Rassie Erasmus who is heading in the opposite direction in December. Van Graan will start work next month subject to obtaining a work permit and has signed a three-year contract.
The Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, recently dismissed as “hearsay” reports that Van Graan’s departure to Munster was already a done deal but the South African Rugby Union has now agreed to release Van Graan and allowed him to move to the Irish province just prior to Erasmus leaving to become the Boks’ new director of rugby.
The 37-year-old Van Graan has been a part of the Springbok staff for six seasons, having initially been recruited by Heyneke Meyer. He was previously a member of the Bulls setup when they won Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010 and has been attracting northern hemisphere club interest for some time. “We know Johann, with forwards coach Jerry Flannery and backline and attack coach Felix Jones will continue to establish the structures and processes required to bring this Munster team forward in terms of growth and success,” said Garrett Fitzgerald, Munster’s chief executive.
Returning Munster to their Europe-conquering pomp is no easy task but Van Graan’s former employers are clearly sorry to lose him. “Johann has proven himself as an outstanding coach and he has a very bright future ahead of him,” said SA Rugby’s chief executive, Jurie Roux. “The Munster appointment is an excellent opportunity for him to test and prove himself as a head coach in a very competitive European club rugby environment. I have no doubt that Johann will be successful in his new role.”
Coetzee’s warm tribute to Van Graan’s work ethic and attention to detail – “he is a very good man and I know first-hand why he is so highly rated” – will also be well received around Thomond Park as Munster prepare to launch their latest European campaign. Erasmus’s side kick off at Castres on Sunday, with Van Graan’s first taste of Champions’ Cup action set to come when Leicester visit Limerick on 9 December.
Cornish rugby, meanwhile, is mourning one of its most famous rugby sons following the death at the age of 76 of former England and Lions prop Brian “Stack” Stevens after a long illness. Stevens, a farmer who toured with the 1971 Lions, won 25 caps between 1969 and 1975 and was a try-scorer in England’s famous 1973 win over New Zealand at Eden Park.