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PRO 14    

van Graan tackles assistants' exits

PRO 14    

'Jerry and Felix are fantastic coaches, guys I trusted with my life, and both ways... I wanted to keep them'

Johann van Graan used his PRO14 semi-final media conference to address the elephant that has been in the Munster room in Limerick since early last week – the snap decision by assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones to rebuff contract extension offers and opt to leave at the end of the season. 

With the South African having last month signed an early extension to his own deal through to 2022 (it originally was due to run out in 2020), he was expecting his two Irish comrades to follow suit and decide to stick with him at the helm in Ireland.

However, his reign was left on shaky ground by the decision of Flannery and Jones to announce they would be leaving.

It was the sort of development that has led to many raised eyebrows in the run-up to next Saturday’s RDS semi-final with rivals Leinster. However, rather than dodge the awkward issue, van Grann tackled it head on at his media gig ahead of the trip to Dublin.  

“I’ve said it all along, we’ve noted in our coaching staff, we wanted to bring in an additional coach to spread the workload on the four of us,” he explained to Irish media in Limerick.

“I’ve said it since I came in. Firstly, it’s about finding the right people and we’ll follow the right process in getting those people.

“It’s identifying who those people are. You want three coaches across world rugby who are the right fit, and all at the same time line. So in a perfect world yes, but this is how it’s worked out now, so we’ll take our time in filling the positions.

“There’s been talk about a lot of guys, so I’m not going to respond to any names (of replacements). I’ve read about a few guys who are supposedly on some shortlist, some guys I don’t even know.

“We’ll follow diligent process to get the right people at Munster Rugby. We’ll take our time and the most important thing is we must take the team forward, and just make sure that we get guys who can better the team.

“Both Jerry and Felix are fantastic coaches. They’re guys that I’ve trusted with my life, and both ways. We’ve worked well together so well and I guess you guys can see from the passion in my eyes I really wanted to keep them.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the case and you can look at the bottle as half-full or half-empty, I’m going to look at it as half-full and look at positives, and we’ve got to take this team forward now.”

Van Grann wants a team of five on the management ticket and while Wales assistant Rob Howley is a potential candidate, the South African dismissed speculation that 2005 Welsh Grand Slam coach Mike Ruddock and Ireland under-20s boss Noel McNamara are in the mix.  

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'Jerry and Felix are fantastic coaches, guys I trusted with my life, and both ways... I wanted to keep them'
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