Munster play waiting game as O'Gara weighs up contract offer
Munster have not yet set a deadline for Ronan O'Gara to accept a new one-year contract, but chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said he is hopeful that the out-half will stay on for another season.
Brian O'Driscoll's decision to agree a new one-year extension has turned the focus back on O'Gara, whose body language following their Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier last month suggested he had played his final game for the Reds.
But Fitzgerald said yesterday that they would not have offered O'Gara a new contract if they were not hopeful that he would accept, but he stressed they were not pressing him for a decision.
"We've offered Ronan a one-year extension to his contract, and he's just asked for time to consider it," said Fitzgerald.
Coach Rob Penney admitted that finding a replacement for his captain and fellow Kiwi Doug Howlett would not be easy and he paid tribute to the former All Black who announced his retirement this week following a shoulder injury.
"There is only one Doug Howlett. He has been a terrific member of the team for a long time now, he has been inspirational," he said.
Fitzgerald ruled out a coaching role for Howlett but outlined a number of developments in the management team with the province extending the contract of forwards coach Anthony Foley by one year but not renewing the one year fixed contract of scrum coach Paul McCarthy as part of a cost saving measure.
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The chief executive also revealed that an option to extend the contract of loosehead prop Wian du Preez was not taken up as part of the deal which has seen tighthead BJ Botha extend his contract by two more seasons.
Fitzgerald said that there had been lengthy discussions with the IRFU on Botha's contract extension given that another World Cup winning tighthead, John Afoa, is with Ulster and the new succession policy only allowed for one foreign player in each position.
"We applied for an exception to the rule as we have a very good crop of young props coming forward and as part of their development we needed to have an experienced tighthead, so it was important for us to have BJ around," he added.
With Munster announcing that they will base their new training centre at the University of Limerick – expected to come on stream for the 2015-16 season – Fitzgerald also confirmed that they are very close to announcing a new sponsor.
"We have made progress and it is almost concluded so I hope there will be some news soon.
"There are just a few things to sort but we have made progress recently and we just need to finalise it," he said.