Van Graan 'very disappointed and sad' at departures of Flannery and Jones

Johann van Graan has spoken of his sadness at the departures of assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones but insisted Munster did everything in their power to stop the former players from leaving the province.

Forwards coach Flannery and backline and attack coach Jones will exit Munster at the end of the season having turned down contract extensions to stay on van Graan’s coaching ticket, leaving the head coach to scramble for replacements as he continues his search for a senior coach to take his backroom staff numbers up to five.

Speaking on Monday as preparations continued for Munster’s Guinness PRO14 semi-final against defending champions Leinster at Dublin’s RDS on Saturday, van Graan said:

“I am very disappointed and sad that they are leaving. Two fantastic coaches and more importantly two brilliant Munster men.

“We believe that competitive terms were offered and they rejected their contract offers. From a personal point of view, it’s two guys that I have worked really well with and unfortunately they are moving on.

“It was the intention of the PGB (Professional Games Board) to make sure that they finalised my contract first and then the other two assistant coaches. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that they will be staying.

“I believe we did everything we could. Really sad to see them going. Now we have a few voids to fill. First up is the semi-final with Leinster and then the process will be on-going to find their replacements.”

Head coach van Graan pointed to a settled squad with all his big-name players committing to the club and no departures this summer while choosing to characterise the coaching disruption as a “massive opportunity” as the search for replacements begins.

“The continuity is one of the most important things in world sport. Obviously we will lose a bit of continuity on the coaching side. It is something that I hoped that we could retain. But that is professional sport and you have got to be able to adapt.

“The positive thing about it is we have retained 22 players. Our playing squad will be exactly the same, bar Nick (McCarthy) coming in from the outside. Unfortunately life happens. We will have to adapt.

“Luckily we have done our pre-season planning in terms of what we need to do. We have got a fantastic medical and S&C staff that will handle the first part of the pre-season. Because of the World Cup, the PRO14 will start so much later so we have got a bit of time. I am not going to sit here and say it is ideal but it is what it is now and we have got to deal with that and see the positive out of it.

“There is massive opportunity in this disappointment and hopefully we can see the bright side of it.”

There was also positivity surrounding the fitness of Keith Earls and Joey Carbery for this Saturday’s trip to Dublin. Ireland wing Earls, out since early April with a thigh injury, and fly-half Carbery, who suffered the recurrence of a hamstring injury on March 30, were both due to return to full training on Monday.

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