Munster have underlined the determination of incoming head coach Rob Penney to change the province’s style of play by appointing his fellow Kiwi, Simon Mannix, as their new backs coach.
As Penney, who will take up his new role after coaching the Junior All Blacks at the IRB U20 World Championship this summer, admitted he was not a fan of his new side’s existing style, Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald yesterday added former Racing Metro backs coach Mannix to the new coaching ticket after agreeing a two-year contract.
Subject to securing a work permit in Ireland, former All Blacks fly-half Mannix will join Penney and forwards coach Anthony Foley for the commencement of pre-season training in late June.
Fitzgerald was impressed with Mannix’s breadth of experience as a player with the Hurricanes, Sale and Gloucester and as a coach, having been at Racing Metro for four years until falling victim to club politics at the Parisian club when head coach Pierre Berbizier fell out with the players last November.
“We’re delighted that Simon has agreed terms and believe his playing experience in two hemispheres, plus his coaching experience at the top level in France, will complement the recent appointment of Rob Penney and existing position of Anthony Foley,” Fitzgerald said.
The Munster chief executive will also be hoping Munster’s backs have the same high regard for Mannix as he engendered in Paris, where Mannix’s swift departure from Racing led to a player protest against Berbizier — a number of his former charges unfurling a banner before the Top 14 derby with Stade Francais, which read: “There’s only one Simon Mannix.”
Former Canterbury head coach Penney, meanwhile, has been telling his local newspaper, the Marlborough Express, of his plan to change Munster’s approach when he takes over from Tony McGahan.
“I’ve had a really good look at Munster’s style,” Penney said. “It’s not a style that I’m a massive fan of but it’s been effective over the years.
“They are going through a transition. They’ve had a core group of players together for about 10-11 years. They’ve had a really tight group, a passionate group.
“I hope to be able to add some value around the style of play they go forward with because results from them more recently haven’t been where they would like them to be. They are all aware change is needed and hopefully I’m in a position to facilitate that.”
Penney believes his experience of handling transition at Canterbury, whom he guided to four successive Division 1 National Provincial Championship titles with just one player featuring in all four successes, will stand him in good stead.
“Only Sean Maitland is left now for this season from four years ago. The transition and the age of the players, we had an average age last year of just under 22. It’s been a real challenge but it’s made it really interesting and exciting from (the coaches’) perspective.
“I’ve had my name in the hat for a couple of (Super Rugby) positions and they haven’t seen me as the right fit... I’m just fortunate now I’ve got a position at Munster.”
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