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Erasmus committed to Munster despite Springbok rumours

By David Kelly

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will reject any attempts by South Africa to lure him back as their head coach amid widespread reports that current incumbent Allister Coetzee faces imminent dismissal.

Erasmus, who was the Springboks' Head of Performance before linking up with Munster last summer, has been earmarked by some within the South African Rugby Union (SARU) as a potential replacement for the beleaguered Coetzee, who has only been in his job 10 months.

However, the lawyer who negotiates for Erasmus, who is signed on with his former defence coach Jacques Nienaber until 2019, has laughed off any potential move.

"He is very happy in Ireland and he doesn't have the interference there that happens here in South Africa," said Frikkie Erasmus of a coach who was busy yesterday signing a raft of long-term player deals.

"He has a long stint to go on what is a very good contract. Rassie has not been approached at all, it is pure speculation."

Although there are widespread rumours that Coetzee's sacking is inevitable following a weekend review by the SARU, they may not be able to do so under employment law.

It would be costly, as Coetzee has two more years to go on a €400,000 salary while a move for Erasmus, who would insist on retaining Nienaber were he to contemplate a move, would cost several times that amount.

Munster yesterday confirmed that Chris Farrell, JJ Hanrahan and James Hart will join the province next season.

Meanwhile, Gordon D'Arcy believes that, while Joe Schmidt will be hoping Rory Best can captain Ireland all the way through to the 2019 World Cup , the New Zealander is likely to use the upcoming Six Nations to shortlist potential successors.

Best was made skipper after Paul O'Connell's retirement and, although the Ulster hooker initially seemed burdened by the weight of the role, as 2016 progressed he became a more assured presence.

After a mixed Six Nations campaign, he led Ireland to a first ever Test win in South Africa and then over the All-Blacks.

He played in 11 of Ireland's 12 games last year but, at 34 and with his current contract with the IRFU expiring in 2018, former Leinster and Ireland centre D'Arcy reckons Schmidt will be considering life without Best.

"I would be surprised if Joe hasn't thought about who he would like to be captaining in the future. The way Rory has conducted himself as captain, how he's led the team and how he's playing, I'm sure he would be delighted if Rory gets to the World Cup," D'Arcy said.

"But I'm sure he will have two or three contingencies and would be confident we'll start seeing some candidates coming through in the Six Nations."

Meanwhile, Dylan Hartley is to be reinstated as England captain after a six-week ban for a swinging arm on Saan O'Brien.

And, after picking up knocks, back-rows James Haskell and Jack Clifford will remain at home while the rest of the squad travel to Portugal for a training camp. .

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