MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan has paid tribute to outgoing assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones, underlining his disappointment at losing the pair this summer.

It was confirmed last week that Flannery and Jones had declined new contract offers with the province, leaving Munster searching for new coaching talent ahead of next season.

Jerry Flannery, Felix Jones and Johann van Graan. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Van Graan believes Munster did everything in their power to retain Flannery and Jones, who are both former players for the province.

“I’m very disappointed and sad that they’re leaving,” said van Graan at Munster’s training base in UL today. “Two fantastic coaches and more importantly two brilliant Munster men.

“We believe that competitive terms were offered and they rejected their contract offers. From a personal point of view, it’s two guys that I have worked really well with and unfortunately they are moving on.

“It was the intention of the PGB [Professional Games Board] to make sure that they finalised my contract first and then the other two assistant coaches.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that they will be staying. I believe we did everything we could. I’m really sad to see them going. Now we have a few voids to fill. First up is the semi-final with Leinster [this weekend] and then the process will be on-going to find their replacements.”

Munster have already spoken to a number of possible new assistant coaches, including Wales attack coach Rob Howley, but there have been no official announcements about new additions yet.

If Howley is to join Munster, it would be after this year’s World Cup, a situation that wouldn’t be ideal as the province look to build again next season.

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Van Graan admitted that the loss of two assistant coaches was damaging, particularly after it had appeared Munster were heading into a period of stability after the head coach extended his contract through until 2022.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Continuity is one of the most important things in world sport,” said van Graan. “Obviously, we will lose a bit of continuity on the coaching side. It is something that I hoped that we could retain.

“But that is professional sport and you have got to be able to adapt. The positive thing about it is we have retained 22 players. Our playing squad will be exactly the same, bar Nick [McCarthy] coming in from the outside.

“Luckily, we have done our pre-season planning in terms of what we need to do. We have got a fantastic medical and S&C staff that will handle the first part of the pre-season.

“Because of the World Cup, the Pro14 will start so much later, so we have got a bit of time. I am not going to sit here and say it is ideal but it is what it is now and we have got to deal with that and see the positive out of it. There is a massive opportunity in this disappointment and, hopefully, we can see the bright side of it.”

The loss of Jones and Flannery means Munster could be without a homegrown coach for the first time next season.

It will be intriguing to see who the province hire ahead of next season and how van Graan makes up his coaching team in terms of the skillsets brought in.

“Together with firstly the PGB and Irish Rugby we have got to do what is the best for Munster in terms of what that picture will exactly be depending on who we want to bring in,” said van Graan.

“There will be a lot of names thrown around but hopefully we finish the season on a high over the next two weeks and then follow the process to get quality people into Munster Rugby.”

Carbery is back in full training. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Meanwhile, Munster confirmed that Keith Earls, Joey Carbery and Rhys Marshall will return to full training this week in what is a major boost ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final against Leinster at the RDS.

Earls and Carbery have been struggling with thigh and hamstring injuries, respectively, while Marshall was sidelined with a calf issue.

Earls and Carbery haven’t played since Munster’s Champions Cup quarter-final win over Edinburgh six weeks ago.

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