As Rob Penney declined to speak to the media on the subject and with CEO Garrett Fitzgerald set to address a press conference in UL tomorrow, it was left to acting captain James Coughlan to provide the players’ viewpoint on the coach’s end-of-season departure after Saturday night’s facile 54-13 victory over Cardiff.
“Naturally, we were all surprised and disappointed to hear that Rob and Simon (Mannix, back coach) were leaving”, he admitted.
“Their contribution to Munster has been incredible. They have changed the way we play. We are top of the league and looking forward to a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup against Toulouse and it was a big call for Rob. He has to do what’s right for him and we all respect that.”
Coughlan admitted the players knew nothing about the departure of the two Kiwi coaches until Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after he had informed the press he was “close” to renewing his contract.
“We always have a meeting before training and Rob and Simon spoke to us”, said Coughlan.
“We’re all big fans of Rob and I think he has made a big impact on a lot of our players and we are eternally grateful to himself and Simon for that.
We want to put our hands up for whoever comes in at the end of the season. The players focus is from week to week to see where that lands us.”
Anthony “Axel” Foley is the bookmakers favourite to replace Penney and Coughlan commented: “His record speaks for itself. He has worked with a lot of coaches and built up a lot of experience as a coach as well as a player. The lads in the dressing room have massive respect for Axel.
“He has brought a lot of focus on our defence, we are fairly stingy in our defence. If Axel gets it, then, that’s great. We are competitive animals and whoever comes in, we will be looking to show that we can work under any system he brings in. I’ve said before things that aren’t in our control, we can do absolutely nothing about.”
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