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'What a shock to us all. We will miss him' - Munster coach on CJ Stander retirement decision

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Munster’s CJ Stander will hang up the boots this summer

Munster’s CJ Stander will hang up the boots this summer

Munster’s CJ Stander will hang up the boots this summer

Munster assistant coach Graham Rowntree has said he is “gutted” at the shock news that CJ Stander will retire at the end of the season.

However, he stopped short of stating whether the IRFU could have done more to keep the player in Ireland.

“He’ll be a loss,” said Rowntree. “I’m gutted. So sorry to see him go. I’m delighted he is doing it on his terms and he has plenty of rugby still left in him here.

“What a shock to us all. He’s a great bloke and rugby player but a great bloke first of all. We will miss him. They are literally big shoes to fill.”

Asked whether the IRFU should have exhausted every avenue to keep the player here, Rowntree responded: “I’ve no idea about these details. It’s a bombshell. All I can give you is my reaction. We will miss him but hopefully he will get a proper rugby send-off.

“We’re missing some big characters with Billy Holland gone too. I’ve seen them from afar and I worked with CJ on the last Lions tour. They will be tough to replace but we have decent guys who are able to do that.

“He plays for 80 minutes but he’s so warm and humble as well. Most Tuesdays in our heavy sessions, he is the one leading the charge.”

Rowntree also firmly believes that Stander an make Warren Gatland’s Lions squad.

“You could so worse than taken such a proven performer. He knows those South Africans as well. That area will be tightly contested in the back-row.”

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