Munster may have Wayne Smith to thank if their new head coach Rob Penney turns out to be a success with the two-time Heineken Cup winners.
The province believe they have found the right man in the 48-year-old Penney to take their team forward as successor to Australia-bound Tony McGahan from next season.
Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald has revealed that while discussions with Smith regarding the vacancy were ruled out by the former All Blacks coach — as was England’s approach for the highly regarded Kiwi’s services — he did have a role in recommending their eventual choice.
“I’ve got to know him quite a bit in recent times,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m not surprised he turned down England. He needed some time for his family at home in Hamilton. After seven straight years with the All Blacks, did he really want to turn into another full-time position on the other side of the world? We spoke to him early in the process to establish if he was interested in coming to Munster. He was one of the people who was very helpful to us in our consultations not just with Rob Penney but with many other people as well.”
Speaking in the match programme for tonight’s RaboDirect clash with Ulster, Fitzgerald reiterated what most impressed him and the selection panel about Penney.
“We met him once and interviewed him a second time on Skype. He’s an impressive individual, and comes from an excellent rugby background with the Crusaders, who would be renowned worldwide. They would see themselves as a very Munster-type of outfit — not from the capital, always producing quality players and wining trophies. He played for Canterbury, has coached at least four of the recent NPC titles too. The references from the highest level of coaching in New Zealand couldn’t have spoke more highly of him. We spent a lot of time on that aspect of the process.
“He has a very good understanding of the game of rugby, where it is today and where it is going. I think we’ve secured a good person with excellent rugby knowledge and experience. We consulted sensibly, locally and abroad.
“I’m happy we’ve got the right man, but he will, like any coach, be judged on results. People were talking about [Leinster’s] Joe Schmidt being fired after 10 weeks, and now he is considered the top coach in Europe.”
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