Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery to leave Munster at end of season
MUNSTER have been dealt a major blow with the news their assistant coaches Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery have turned down new contracts and will leave at the end of this season.
Their departure comes as a setback to head coach Johann van Graan who currently has one coach, JP Ferreira, in place for the beginning of pre-season.
He is in negotiations with Wales coach Rob Howley about a role as attack coach, but the former scrum-half would not be available until after the Rugby World Cup.
And Flannery's decision to leave means he is in need of a forwards coach and potentially a scrum coach in the coming months.
Although Van Graan has been looking to bolster his ticket with new blood before next season, he had expected his existing assistants to remain as part of the set-up.
The former players were part of Anthony Foley and Rassie Erasmus's backroom teams and appeared to forge a bond with the South African when he came in midway through last season.
Jones turned down an approach from Erasmus to join the Springbok coaching staff last year, while he was also part of Joe Schmidt's backroom team on the 2017 summer tour of the United States and Japan.
"As Johann has noted all along, the province was committed to retaining the services of both Jerry and Felix, and I believe the Professional Game Board made every effort to retain the coaching duo with competitive terms," Munster's acting chief executive Philip Quinn said in a statement.
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“While we understand their respective decisions, we are hugely disappointed with the latest development, but wish them every success in the future.
“It goes without saying that Jerry and Felix have been great servants to Munster Rugby, from their earlier playing days in red, to forging successful coaching careers in guiding the next generation of Munster players.”
Van Graan admitted his disappointment with the pair's departure.
“We will be very disappointed to see Jerry and Felix go at the end of the season. They are both extremely hard-working, dedicated coaches, in addition to being really good guys who have been fantastic to work with.
“As a coaching group we will continue with the same commitment and drive for success as always, working towards our upcoming Guinness PRO14 semi-final.”
The departures will inevitably lead to speculation about a potential return for club legends Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara, while Mike Prendergast is another who may be linked with the vacancy.
Crusaders assistant O'Gara is currently attracting interest from La Rochelle and his former club Racing 92 as he considers his options, while O'Connell will leave Stade Francais at the end of this season.