Tuesday 17 October 2017

The key questions...

Did Foley want the top job?

He would certainly have taken it but, as had been intended before McGahan was offered a position with the Wallabies, spending another couple of years in an assistant's role before taking over is not the worst plan. Foley has impressed as forwards coach, with Munster and in a temporary role with Ireland but, time-wise, it is still early days for the former captain, and getting the head role now may have been too much too soon.

Was Penney a 'cut-price' choice?

Not in terms of his quality and respect within the game, but the fact Penney has not coached Super or international rugby would have reduced his asking price. Munster have to be cautious with their finances, and the likes of Wayne Smith, John Kirwan, Nick Mallet or even possibly Tana Umaga (given his profile and what he was claiming in Toulon) could have proven prohibitive cost-wise.

It remains to be seen but signing Penney could prove to be a clever bit of business.

How extensive is Penney's role?

That will become clearer at today's press conference, but Penney's work with the New Zealand U-20s and as Canterbury Academy manager and Crusaders Development coach is encouraging in terms of getting to grips with Munster's production line. Penney has experience of back-room management also from his time as CEO with Marlborough Rugby Union, and there is potential for the type of director of rugby role filled by David Humphreys at Ulster. However, Penney has been announced as head coach and though his specialist experience, like Foley's, is with the forwards, his coaching resume includes an overseeing role in all areas -- this will continue with Munster.

Is Penney rated in New Zealand?

Very highly. While Mark Anscombe was described as the "unwanted" Auckland coach before he secured his deal with Ulster, Penney was very much wanted by Canterbury after steering the province to four successive ITM titles.

The U-20 World Cup is likely to add to his reputation this summer before Penney decamps to Munster, and the view in New Zealand is that a bit of overseas coaching experience can be of benefit when their wild geese return home -- Smith and Todd Blackadder providing two ready examples.

And the backs coach role?

Munster say that position will be filled "following consultation with the new head coach". This does not necessarily rule out Umaga, but his name was not included in yesterday's announcement, so the indications are not encouraging for the former New Zealand captain.

Quality, proven, affordable backs coaches are thin on the ground and one name that could come into the mix is Munster's former All Blacks winger Doug Howlett.

After a season ruined by injury, the plan would be to get Howlett back on the pitch in the No 14 jersey, but that does not necessarily preclude a coaching involvement -- as Johann Muller is proving successfully with Ulster.

Irish Independent

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