Munster lock sights on NFL fitness coach

Munster are closing in on appointing an American football strength and conditioning coach as head of athletic performance, causing surprise and disappointment within Munster and Irish rugby circles that indigenous candidates have been overlooked again.

Denis Logan, an S&C assistant with the Cleveland Browns, has been offered the position which became vacant last month following Aled Walters’ decision to join Rassie Erasmus in South Africa.

Logan would become the fifth consecutive non-Irish person to hold the position, following in the footsteps of Welsh-native Walters, Australians Adam Trypas and Bryce Kavanagh, and the late Paul Darbyshire, from Warrington, England.

Logan, a native of Elmont, New York, has previously worked for 10 years with EXOS, formerly known as Athlete’s Performance, a multi-sport performance institute in the US where he would have worked with the IRFU’s current head of athletic performance and science, Nick Winkelman, a fellow American.

Winkelman, along with Munster head coach Johann van Graan and team manager Niall O’Donovan, recently interviewed numerous candidates, including three leading members of the incumbent S&C staff: The long-serving Aidan O’Connell, former Dolphin player and current Irish U18s head S&C coach Adam Sheehan, and Fermoy native PJ Wilson, who has worked in the Munster setup since 2011.

It is understood no Irish candidate even made the shortlist of three. A couple of southern hemisphere candidates with rugby experience were in the running before the committee opted for Logan.

The three-year position will not be assumed until after the end of this season, with its various duties being undertaken by the existing senior team S&C staff.

Eyebrows have been raised within the setup, as well as Irish rugby high-performance circles, that the committee opted for a candidate with no institutional or rugby-specific knowledge.

Meanwhile, Scarlets will be without nine members of Wales’ Six Nations squad as they travel to face Munster in a vital PRO14 match at Thomond Park this weekend.

Both teams are second in their respective conferences with four games of the regular league season to play.

“About nine frontline players won’t be involved this weekend, but there will be some internationals involved,” said head coach Wayne Pivac.

“They’ll be the guys that haven’t had a lot of gametime in recent weeks.”

Half-backs Rhys Patchell and Aled Davies, hooker Ryan Elias, and flanker James Davies could come into that category for the match in Limerick.

Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Gareth Davies, Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, and Aaron Shingler have all made several Wales starting appearances, while prop Wyn Jones is out with a hamstring injury, probably until May.

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