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Dublin: 18°C Sunday 13 June 2021

Here are the leading candidates to replace Rob Penney at Munster

Anthony Foley is the current front-runner but a host of familiar faces will be lining up for the top job.

Ronan O'Gara and Anthony Foley pictured in 2011.
Ronan O'Gara and Anthony Foley pictured in 2011.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

MUNSTER RUGBY ARE set to hold a press briefing on Tuesday next and will set out their plans to replace current coach Rob Penney over the summer.

The province announced this afternoon that Penney, and backs coach Simon Mannix, will depart at the end of this season, bringing an end to their two-year stint in Ireland. Penney already has an agreement in place with another club for a three-year deal.

Munster and Ireland lock Paul O’Connell has already mentioned the name of the province’s forwards coach Anthony Foley as a leading candidate to take the top job. Here is a list of other candidates that may be in the running to replace the New Zealander.

Old boys club

Anthony Foley

‘Axel’ interviewed for the job back in early 2012 but lost out to Penney. He remained on in his role as forwards coach and held a similar posting with Ireland until Declan Kidney’s departure. Coached the Ireland Wolfhounds’ recent game with England Saxons. Foley was capped 201 times for Munster during his playing days and would be the early favourite to get the coveted coaching job.

Ronan O’Gara


INPHO/Harold Cunningham

Munster’s most capped player and leading points scorer of all time. O’Gara only retired at the end of last season but would be a frontrunner for the head coach position. The former out-half has expressed a desire to coach at Munster and is currently employed at Racing Métro as skills and backs coach.

Doug Howlett

The former All Blacks winger played 114 games for Munster over six seasons after joining the province in 2007. Enjoyed Heineken Cup success with Munster in 2008 and captained the team in his final two seasons. Retired at the end of last season but has remained with the province in an ambassadorial role. May be well suited to a backs coaching role.

Declan Kidney

The Cork native could return to coach Munster for the third time if the province take a notion to wait for the dream ticket of Foley-O’Connell-O’Gara. The former Ireland coach, who led Munster to Heineken Cup success in 2006 and 2008, is currently the director of sport and physical activity at University College Cork.

Outside the box

Dave Rennie

If Munster opt to go for another Kiwi they should look no further than the Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Having played for Wellington and the Cook Islands, Rennie began his coaching career at his old club in 2000. He had spells as assistant coach at Hurricanes and the New Zealand U20s but made the step-up to the Chiefs in 2012. Rennie has enjoyed huge success with Chiefs — winning successive Super Rugby titles — but could be eyeing the All Blacks job after the 2015 World Cup.

Conor O’Shea

The Harlequins coach and former Ireland fullback was in high demand in April of last year when Declan Kidney was sacked as Irish coach, Committed to the Premiership club before witnessing them being overpowered by Munster in the Heineken Cup quarter final.

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INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Quins struggled in the European Cup this year so O’Shea might be tempted to listen to long-term offers from his home country.

Mark McCall

Ireland’s most successful coach abroad at present, McCall has coached the country’s U21 and ‘A’ team in the past and was at Ulster for three seasons. Is now director of rugby with Saracens and, last season, took his side to the brink of the Heineken Cup final.

Outside bets


INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Denis Leamy

The Tipperary native officially retired from Munster and Ireland duty in 2012 but played his last game in late 2011. Leamy played 145 games over 10 seasons with Munster and has a reputation for being a keen student of the game. He joined the coaching staff at Young Munster last season and remains at the Limerick club.

Mick O’Driscoll

Another player who retired recently [2013] and one who commands a great deal of respect at the province. The former lock played for 12 seasons with Munster and, from 2003-2005, played in the Top 14 with Perpignan. Is now part of the coaching staff at Cork Con.

Paul O’Connell

The Ireland captain would be an obvious candidate to coach Munster, and has previously expressed an interest in the role, but the opportunity may come too soon. O’Connell has committed to leading Ireland until the 2015 World Cup and may well retire after that. A case of watch this space.

imageO’Connell and Eddie O’Sullivan at the 2007 World Cup. INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Eddie O’Sullivan

The former Connacht and Ireland coach has developed a notable media presence since returning to the country from the United States. The Cork native was not interviewed for the Connacht job last season — raising some ire among supporters — but would have a CV to get his foot in the interviewing room at U.L.

Bernard Jackman

The former Leinster hooker is working wonders at Grenoble but may opt to stay on with the Top 14 side due to the fact he was named as head coach for next season.

Who would you like to see as the next Munster coach?

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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