new dawn

McGahan and Bradley on Munster's radar with search underway for DOR

Current Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder remains a contender.

WHILE MUNSTER HAVE pressing short-term goals in the Guinness Pro12 this season, the 2016/17 campaign promises plenty of change for the southern province.

For the first time in their history, Munster will have a director of rugby next season, with CEO Garrett Fitzgerald having formally launched the recruitment process for the new position after receiving IRFU sign-off.

Anthony Foley Francesca Soli / INPHO Francesca Soli / INPHO / INPHO

Munster’s Professional Game Board, which is chaired by former Munster wing John Kelly and also includes Fitzgerald, has decided that a change to the structure of their rugby staff is needed after one of the province’s most disappointing seasons in years.

The recognition that a tweak was required was first illustrated by the appointment of Andy Farrell as a consultant on a short-term basis in January, with that agreement set to end next month when the Englishman’s role as Ireland defence coach begins.

Fitzgerald and the PGB have decided that a permanent addition in the new director of rugby role is one way of ensuring that Munster make progress next season.

The confirmation of this new job at Munster comes at the same time as the province officially announced a one-year contract extension for Anthony Foley as head coach, making it all the more intriguing.

As reported by The42 last month, current Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder – out of contract at the conclusion of the 2016 Super Rugby competition – features among Munster’s list of potential targets as director of rugby.

The42 understands that ex-Munster boss Tony McGahan, now in charge of the Rebels back in his native Australia, is another name that has been discussed by the province’s PGB at this early stage.

McGahan first arrived in Munster in 2005, working as a defence, skills and backs coach. He played a major role in both of the province’s Heineken Cup successes under Declan Kidney, before succeeding the Cork man as head coach in 2008.

Tony McGahan James Crombie James Crombie

McGahan led Munster to Pro12 titles in 2009 and 2011, the latter trophy remaining Munster’s most recent aside from the B&I Cup in 2012.

The Australian returned home at the end of the 2011/12 season to join the Wallabies’ coaching set-up as defence coach, before moving into the head coaching role with the Rebels ahead of the 2013 season.

Another coach that has been discussed is Michael Bradley, the former Connacht and Edinburgh head coach.

It’s understood that Bradley might not be in direct contention for the director of rugby role at the province, but may have some part to play in the province’s re-jigged staff set-up next season.

The ex-Ireland scrum-half has most recently been working with the Georgia national team as attack and backs coach. With Brian Walsh believed to be leaving Munster at the end of the current season, Bradley – who remains based out of Cork – may have involvement in the same role.

Whoever is to fill the director of rugby role at Munster next season will clearly have to build a strong working relationship with head coach Foley. There will need to be complimentary skills between the pair, but it’s quite obvious that anyone coming in as director of rugby would need an understanding that they are the boss.

A crystal clear delineation of roles and duties would appear to be vital early on. Foley remains an excellent training ground technician and his understanding of the game is highly regarded.

GeorgiaÕs MIchael Bradley 16/11//2014 Bradley has been working with the Georgia team, but is based in Cork. Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

The director of rugby is liked to be heavily tasked with the transfer, contracting, succession planning and media work that Foley has perhaps become overly focused on in his role as head coach.

The former number eight built his coaching reputation on the training paddock in assistant roles with Munster and Ireland, though the position of head coach has, by its overseeing nature, removed him from some of those on-field responsibilities.

The director of coaching role in Ulster was initially filled by David Humphreys – very much a transfers and contracting type – before the deeply technical and tactical Les Kiss assumed the position this season.

Neil Doak is head coach with the northern province, and the gap between Humphreys’ departure to Gloucester and Kiss’ arrival meant Doak was tasked with dealing with the media and other issues of that nature, as well as coaching the players.

Doak never appeared entirely at ease with those additional duties and Ulster have benefited from him returning to a head coaching role that means more time on the pitch working with the players on skills and attacking systems.

It was interesting that Munster’s short statement today confirming that the search for a director of rugby is underway underlined that the new man will have responsibility for the “elite player development pathway.”

Driving young homegrown talent through into the senior squad is a major priority for Munster and Irish rugby at present, given the challenges being presented by the financial might of English and French clubs.

Garrett Fitzgerald Garrett Fitzgerald and Munster are on the search for the right man. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

It would seem sensible for Munster to pursue an ‘outside’ influence as director of rugby ahead of next season, with one perceived issue in the current coaching staff being that all of them are Munster men born and bred.

Certainly, a figure like Blackadder would bring a different way of thinking and operating, while someone like McGahan would have an understanding of how Munster works and how other organisations function.

It will also be interesting to note how quickly Munster can secure their man. The province remains a big name in the game, but as Leinster discovered last season when trying to replace Matt O’Connor as head coach, these processes are not always straightforward.

If Munster are to look abroad, they may meet some resistance to the idea of working in a nation where the union has such a major influence. Many foreign coaches are turned off the idea of working in Ireland simply because the IRFU is such a pervasive force.

Player management, positional requests, central contracting and financial limits are all concerns for potential arrivals from abroad.

That said, Munster have history and prestige behind them. While their recent record may not include trophies and they are currently in the midst of a difficult season, they remain a notable name around the rugby world thanks to previous successes.

With the move to one training base in Limerick next season, there is a sense of project about the province too. The right man as director of rugby will feel that he can play a major role in Munster rising again.

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