O’Connell and O’Gara to return to Munster as Flannery and Jones leave?
MUNSTER HAVE ANNOUNCED the shock departure of forwards coach Jerry Flannery and attack coach Felix Jones from Johann van Graan’s backroom staff at the end of the season.
In a statement, Munster say they made every effort to retain the services of both Flannery and Jones, but they have ‘declined their respective contract offers’ and will leave Thomond Park at the end of their current deals in June.
Jerry Flannery, Felix Jones and Johann van Graan Flannery and Jones are leaving van Graan’s coaching team.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
“As Johann has noted all along, the province was committed to retaining the services of both Jerry and Felix, and I believe the Professional Game Board made every effort to retain the coaching duo with competitive terms,” Munster Rugby acting CEO, Philip Quinn, said.
“While we understand their respective decisions, we are hugely disappointed with the latest development, but wish them every success in the future.”
Head coach van Graan added: “We will be very disappointed to see Jerry and Felix go at the end of the season. They are both extremely hard-working, dedicated coaches, in addition to being really good guys who have been fantastic to work with.
“As a coaching group we will continue with the same commitment and drive for success as always, working towards our upcoming Guinness Pro14 semi-final.”
The loss of two homegrown coaches, and former players, is a blow for Munster’s overall development under van Graan, and certainly, more upheaval to their backroom staff was the last thing the province needed.
It had been reported that van Graan was looking to recruit an experienced attack coach to continue the building towards next season, with Wales assistant Rob Howley among those interviewed, but the expectation was that Jones would remain with the province.
“It has been an absolute honour to have played for, and to have coached Munster Rugby,” the former fullback said. “I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and fans who have supported me over the last 10 years.
“We will continue our drive to end the season on a high, and I look forward to being a Munster supporter in the future.”
After his playing career was cut short through injury, Jones joined the Munster staff as a technical coach ahead of the 2016/17 season before taking on the role of attack and backline coach under Rassie Erasmus and then van Graan.
Conor Murray with Felix Jones Jones with Conor Murray last week.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
The 31-year-old also gained huge experience whilst assisting Joe Schmidt on Ireland’s summer tour of USA and Japan in 2017.
Flannery, meanwhile, has been part of the Munster coaching staff since May 2014, initially as scrum coach and then forwards coach. He said: “This has been a dream job for me, to coach Munster Rugby. I want to thank all the players, coaches and staff that I worked with over the years, and also thank the supporters who have always been there for us.
“Leaving the province is not a decision I took lightly, but I look forward to watching the squad go from strength to strength, and wish them continued success.”
Quinn added: “It goes without saying that Jerry and Felix have been great servants to Munster Rugby, from their earlier playing days in red, to forging successful coaching careers in guiding the next generation of Munster players.”
Munster say they have commenced the process of identifying suitable candidates to join van Graan and defence coach JP Ferreria, who is contracted through to 2020, at the southern province for next season.
Today’s news will raise further speculation over the possible return of Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara to the province.
O’Connell is leaving his role at Stade Francais at the end of the season, while O’Gara — currently with Super Rugby champions the Crusaders — has made no secret of his desire to return to Munster.
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