THE BIG DECISION of who to make new Munster head coach has been signed and sealed, but CEO Garret Fitzgerald says the issue of who will be Anthony Foley’s assistant will remain open for at least another month.
Rob Penney and backs coach Simon Mannix announced their exit from the province early this month.
Having been passed over for the role in 2012, Foley was the clear stand-out as the only one of 22 applicants to replace Penney interviewed, but Fitzgerald says it will be March before a replacement for Mannix is even discussed.
“I think, it is very important we got clarity on this position very quickly, given the time of the season that this arose,” Fitzgerald told Limerick’s Live95 at today’s unveiling.
“The priority now is matches and we’ve two very important games coming up in the next two weeks. As the season moves on we’ll look further into the team, but there are no other announcements [today].
The natural window for such discussions will be the first fortnight in March as Munster take a break from the Pro12 between March 1 and 22. While Irish rugby will hopefully have big distractions in the Six Nations, Foley will sit down with his CEO to talk through his needs and options before sizing up a backs coach.
“Everything is put on hold and parked until then,” says Fitzgerald, “We’ll see what way Anthony wants to take it – to get his opinion on what is an ideal management team and what areas we may change or tweak.
“Nothing will really happen until then and we’ll decide on a process from there.”
Fitzgerald praised the former number eight’s on-field prowess, in-depth knowledge of the playing squad and embodiment of the Munster tradition. Although he also underlined that Foley had been selected on his merits as a coach after he had met with the IRFU’s professional game board to outline his “philosophy on the game, his plans, his thoughts about the way he would like things to develop and what he’d like to achieve.”
With Foley’s father, Brendan, part of the celebrated Munster side to defeat New Zealand in 1978, the current forwards coach is just the latest in a family steeped in Munster rugby tradition. However, the chief executive issued a not-too-subtle warning for the next head coach, that family ties are no basis on which to build a professional team.
“If you look at the life of the Foley family and the way they support the game still, it was a natural progression for him.
“But in this business, you don’t get away with much. Whether it’s 100 caps or no caps for Munster, if you don’t deliver you get your head chopped off pretty quick.”