Munster ready to hand Rob Penney another year in hot-seat
Published 07/01/2014 | 02:30
Munster are hoping to finalise new one-year deals for their coaching staff within the next fortnight.
Coach Rob Penney, who has confirmed his desire to complete a third year in the province, has been presented with a contract extension, along with assistants Simon Mannix, Anthony Foley and Ian Costello.
The quartet are all out of contract at the end of the season and, although the position of Mannix was believed to be a sticking point, it is thought that Munster have agreed to allow all four men to complete what Penney has labelled his "three-year plan."
Foley remains favourite to succeed the Kiwi whenever he departs but, after overseeing a difficult transition period, Penney has retained the faith of the Munster hierarchy.
Penney joined Munster from Canterbury in the summer of 2012, succeeding Australian Tony McGahan. Mannix was reportedly a compromise choice as backs coach, as Penney wanted to recruit a Canterbury colleague.
Munster failed to reach the Pro12 play-offs in Penney's first season but did reach the Heineken Cup semi-final, narrowly losing at Clermont Auvergne.
This season, Munster's consistency has radically improved, with the side sitting atop the Pro12 table and primed for another quarter-final berth in the Heineken Cup ahead of ties against Gloucester and Edinburgh in the next fortnight.
There is also positive news on the injury front as Conor Murray and Simon Zebo return to squad training this week ahead of Saturday's trip to struggling Gloucester.
"There is a chance Murray will be involved versus Gloucester, there always was," declared Penney after the weekend's defeat to Ulster.
"Hopefully, everything being equal, the work that's being done by the medical team comes to fruition this week."
Murray returns ahead of schedule after just over four weeks out with medial ligament damage to his right knee, an injury he sustained against Perpignan.
Zebo is back training after a 12-week absence caused by a cracked bone in his left foot -- an injury picked up in the Heineken Cup opener against Edinburgh.
As expected, James Downey (groin) and Keith Earls (shoulder) are back at training while Sean Dougall, who sustained a mild ankle sprain against Connacht 10 days ago, is expected to train later this week.
James Cronin (lower back) and JJ Hanrahan (groin) will return to limited training early in the week and will continue to be monitored.
Following on from the defeat to Ulster last Friday, the update on Donncha O'Callaghan, who was replaced after 30 minutes with a knee injury, is positive and he is expected to take part in training.
Scrum-half Cathal Sheridan (knee) and hooker Damien Varley (foot) will undergo scans today and meet with a specialist.