Munster rugby legend Mick Galwey believes Anthony Foley would have to leave the province to progress if he is not given the lead role following Rob Penney’s departure.
Galwey skippered a Munster team that included both men in numerous huge European games and has a massive respect for Foley.
“Two years ago they considered that Axel still hadn’t enough experience for the number one position but time has moved on and he has been doing an outstanding job as forwards coach,” Galwey said. “And we saw how good he is and how well suited he is to the role of head coach when his Irish Wolfhounds recently beat the English Wolfhounds.
“Nobody knows the Munster game better than Anthony Foley. He was a great captain and memorably led the victorious Heineken Cup side in 2008. Since then he has turned to coaching without the slightest difficulty and I know for sure he has the respect and support of everybody associated with the team. It’s as simple as this, if he doesn’t get the job, he may well have no option but to look elsewhere and I believe that would be a great pity.”
Galwey believes Foley and Ronan O’Gara would form ‘a dream team’ to lead the team to even greater glory. While acknowledging O’Gara may prefer to develop his coaching career at Racing Metro, he believes the duo would be a popular choice.
“Any Munster player would be absolutely inspired to play under them; there surely wouldn’t be too many unhappy with that combination.
“And if Rog would prefer to wait, then there are several other excellent Irish coaches who could be considered. Take Eddie O’Sullivan. He would make an excellent option. He has the experience, he knows the game backwards, he is available and, what is more, he is a Munsterman.”
The news of Penney’s departure at the end of the season came as big a shock to Galwey as just about everyone else but he is confident the New Zealander will continue to do everything in his power over the coming months to ensure Munster finish the season on a high note.
“I have only met him a few times but he is a very professional man who knows he has a very big job still to do and will do it very well,” said Galwey.
“People will understandably think this is not an ideal situation and that the departure of Penney and Simon Mannix may hinder on the team’s level of performance. But I don’t think so. That simply is not in the nature of a modern rugby team and in fact it may very well act as an incentive.”
4/11 Anthony Foley
Current forwards coach and former captain, the ex-Ireland No. 8 has served his time on the province’s staff since retiring in 2007 and has also cut his coaching teeth in the Ireland set-up, as stand-in forwards coach last season and head coach of the Irish Wolfhounds last month. Could form a respected and popular home ticket with highly-regarded skills coach Ian Costello.
8/1 Mike Ruddock
Ireland U20 head coach has plenty of experience, having coached Leinster between 1997 and 2000 as well as Wales to the country’s first Grand Slam in 27 years in 2005. Enjoyed limited success at Worcester before the Warriors were relegated from the English Premiership on his watch in 2010 but has since had a successful tenure of the Irish U20s. Also guided Lansdowne to last year’s AIL title.
8/1 Declan Kidney
The most impressive CV of them all, with the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam and two Heineken Cups to his name but Kidney’s tenure as Ireland head coach fizzled out last season with the national team’s lowest ever Six Nations finish, fifth place. Currently director of sport at UCC, the rumour mill has linked Kidney with a return to rugby at London Irish but a return to the province he guided to European triumphs in 2006 and ’08 would be far more appealing.
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