Munster head coach Rob Penney has admitted it will be difficult to find a quality replacement for Casey Laulala when the former All Black quits the province next summer.
On Sunday Munster gave up their bid to keep the centre, signed from Cardiff Blues in June 2012, admitting they could not compete with the terms being offered by his suitors, including French Top 14 clubs Grenoble and Racing Metro.
This makes the task of replacing Laulala potentially fraught if Penney wants to bring in a player of similar pedigree from outside his present squad. Asked if Munster could match the French clubs in financial terms for a transfer target, Penney replied: “We are not going to be able to. Simple answer.
“The key thing is that if we get someone in, it has to be the right person. It has to be IRFU-endorsed so there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge in that area.
“We’re really sad to lose Casey but understand completely his rationale. He goes with our blessing and, as I said, whoever we get, if we are to get someone, they have to be the right fit. They have to be a bit special because we’ve got a really good group and the standards have been set pretty high now and Casey’s not an easy man to replace.”
Penney also dismissed as “pie in the sky” speculation concerning the short-term signing of All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore as cover for the injured Mike Sherry.
But he spoke of his pleasure that Donnacha Ryan had joined a growing band of homegrown players in committing their futures to Munster.
“He’s a fantastic guy, a big heart and soul man and a critical part of this group,” Penney said. “I think he has a massive future with Irish rugby and probably the best rugby is ahead of him so it’s great that he’s secured that three years (deal). He’ll be a great asset. It’s really pleasing to have somebody of his calibre committing to the organisation. With Conor and Tommy, Peter O’Mahony and all the young blokes committing their futures here, it’s a great endorsement of what’s happening.”
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