Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones to leave Munster coaching roles
Former Irish internationals have turned down new contract offers
Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery are to leave their coaching roles with Munster after turning down new contract offers. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Confirmation that forwards coach Jerry Flannery and backs coach Felix Jones have each decided to turn down new improved deals from Munster and leave at the end of the season suggests all is entirely not well within the province.
Departures from either a coaching or playing staff generally come to light before the season’s end, but coming less than a fortnight away from their Pro14 semi-final, it’s extremely rare for two young coaches to suddenly leave simultaneously, while the timing of this news also seems less than ideal.
Nor could it have been an easy decision in either instance, as evidence by Flannery’s description of it being “a dream job” and Jones said being part of the province’s coaching ticket had been “an absolute honour” in a Munster statement issued today.
The 40-year-old Flannery, a Limerick native who played 93 times for his native province, is nearing the end of his fifth season on their coaching ticket. The 31-year-old Jones, who played 90 times over six seasons before his career was prematurely cut short, has been on the coaching ticket for four seasons.
Their respective decisions come in the wake of another dispiriting Champions Cup semi-final exit at the expense of Saracens over two weeks ago, and a particularly poor performance in last Saturday’s fortuitous Pro14 quarter-final win over Benetton.
Munster’s statement made it clear that each man had “declined their respective contract offers” and that both their Professional Game Board and head coach Johann van Graan had made “every effort” to retain Flannery and Jones.
Whether connected or not, Welsh and Lions backs coach Rob Howley has been linked with Munster as their prospective new skills coach, an addition van Graan has recently stated was necessary to help bridge the gap with clubs such as Saracens.
It has been reported that Howley has already spoken with Munster, and furthermore this comes after Van Graan recently revealed he had been “in constant contact” with Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara in leaving the door ajar for them one day returning to Munster in coaching capacities.
Now, at the very least, they need a new forwards coach as well as their new skills/backs coach, be it Howley or whomever.
For whatever unexplained reasons, both Flannery and Jones have opted not to accept new improved contracts, and so sudden has this development been that no less than Munster’s supporters, the rest of the coach staff and many of the players - who are on a three-day rest after seven games in succession - were only informed today as well.
Munster Rugby acting CEO Philip Quinn, said: “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.
“While we understand their respective decisions, we are hugely disappointed with the latest development, but wish them every success in the future. 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.”
Head coach Johann 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 Pro 14 semi-final.”
Flannery 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.”
Jones admitted: “It has been an absolute honour to have played for, and to have coached Munster Rugby. 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.”