LAST WEEK RONAN O’Gara urged Munster to trawl the world for the best possible head coach. The search has turned up two names: ITM Cup side Canterbury ‘s head coach Rob Penney and Counties Manakau head coach Tana Umaga. Some trawl.
Penney was interviewed yesterday, and Umaga rolls into town today. Following Ulster’s appointment of Mark Anscombe, the Irish provinces certainly appear to be putting a lot of stock in the ITM Cup, which is the second tier of New Zealand rugby.
A little while ago, we ventured that Munster might find it difficult to recruit a top name, given the time-frame involved, Foley’s obvious stature as head coach in waiting, and the difficult transitional job involved (notwithstanding the obvious lure of a great club with a fine tradition and a fanatical, if expectant fanbase). This appears to have come to pass.
Given the only argument being held against Foley is his lack of experience, Tana Umaga would be a bizarre appointment. He was a failure at Toulon, and has nothing else on his CV to recommend him. Even as a backs-coach appointment to work in tandem with Foley, they would look an oddly fresh-faced team. Rob Penney is predominantly a forwards coach, so he would appear to dovetail poorly with Foley.
The decision not to interview Eddie O’Sullivan (backs coach par excellence) looks strange. Another backs-oriented old hand like Brian Ashton, who has no head coach ambitions and an excellent record as a No.2, is another who would fit well with Foley, but doesn’t seem to have been in the frame.
Unless the Munster Branch have a trick up their sleeves that they’re not telling us about, the job is obviously Foley’s, and the recruiting process has all the hallmarks of a whitewash.