Tuesday 21 May 2019

'I don't think anything is going on' - Van Graan insists nothing is amiss at Munster as O'Gara makes next move


Munster head coach Johann van Graan, left, with Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery
Munster head coach Johann van Graan, left, with Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery
Ronan O'Gara. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Munster legend Ronan O'Gara has reportedly taken himself off the market by agreeing a three-year deal with La Rochelle as current Reds coach Johann van Graan was out defending the province after the decision of his assistants Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones to leave at the end of the season.

The former players were expected to continue beyond the end of their current contracts, but last week they decided to turn down the deals on the table and finish in June, leaving Van Graan with just one assistant coach in place for next season.

Munster's interim CEO Philip Quinn and the Professional Games Board (PGB) are on the look-out for three new coaches.

Last week, Tadhg Beirne and Craig Casey became the 21st and 22nd players to commit their futures to the province, but despite the continuity in the dressing-room there is a summer of upheaval ahead behind the scenes.

And Van Graan admitted the contrast between the players committing and the coaches departing is a strange one.

"It is," he said. "It's very sad and I'm disappointed. I believe the PGB did everything in their power to retain both of our coaches and unfortunately that didn't happen. Now we've got to look forward."

Asked if he had a message for fans concerned by the apparent coaching crisis, Van Graan said there is nothing amiss behind the scenes.

"I don't think anything is going on," he said. "Both (Jones and Flannery) got offered contracts and both of them are leaving for different personal reasons. It's a club that both of them like. We as a group of management and players respect them so much and as we do with all people at Munster rugby, it's a professional sport and people make decisions and people move on.

"To Munster supporters, I'd say 22 players have signed on... so we have an incredible group of players going forward into next season."

There was some good news for Munster fans ahead of Saturday's Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Leinster as Van Graan hopes to have Keith Earls and Carbery back.

"Joey and Earlsy trained last week," he said. "Obviously we're trying to look after them very well. There's a big possibility that they will play and they're pretty important players to ourselves and if they're 100 per cent ready, I'll pick both of them."

Van Graan had said he'd be open to idea of working with O'Gara, but the ex-out-half is expected to join Jono Gibbes' ticket at La Rochelle when he finishes with Crusaders at the end of Super Rugby.

Irish Independent

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