MUNSTER rugby have confirmed that head coach Rob Penney and backs coach Simon Mannix are to leave Munster at end of this season.
The shock announcement was made just after midday this Thursday afternoon and days before Munster play Cardiff Blues in the RaboDirect PRO12 this Saturday (7.15) in Thomond Park.
Contract negotiations between Munster rugby officials and the duo have been on-going in recent months but they are understood to have broken down.
Now despite Munster chasing both league and Heineken Cup honours, Penney is to depart.
There are already suggestions that he has had offers to coach in Japan.
This Thursday afternoon in Limerick, Munster supporters were turning their attention to Penney’s possible successor with a ‘dream team’ partnership of Anthony Foley and Ronan O’Gara on the lips of many.
Rob Penney joined the Munster set-up at the start of the 2012/13 season and in his first year guided the squad to semi-final stage of the Heineken Cup and a sixth place finish in the RaboDirect PRO12 league.
This season Munster have recorded 15 wins out of 18 games and are currently top of the RaboDirect PRO12 league and through to quarter final stage of the Heineken Cup for the fifteenth time in the competition’s history.
According to a Munster rugby statement Penney, who initially negotiated a two year contract with the option for a third year, has opted to decline the extension offer.
The terms and conditions of this extension had been agreed by the Munster Professional Games Committee and the IRFU but Rob has since attracted the interest of another club and there are terms on offer that are in line with Rob’s long-term needs.
Fellow New Zealander and Backs Coach Simon Mannix, who joined Munster at the same time as Penney, will also leave at the end of this season.
Commenting on the departures Munster Rugby Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald said, “When we reach the end of the season Rob will leave with our thanks and best wishes for the future.
“Rob has been a very positive influence on this Munster squad and management and we are disappointed to see him go as we had hoped that he would fulfil his third season. In developing the squad he has highlighted the strength and depth of the Munster panel, with the competition for places as high as ever.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Simon for his work and commitment to the province, and we wish him all the best for the future. He has contributed to Munster’s overall campaign and added great value to our coaching team.
“We now need to focus on the remainder of this season and the opportunities ahead in both the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12. We are confident both Simon and Rob will continue to strive for success and guide the squad through to the next stage.”
Head Coach Rob Penney said “I am disappointed to be leaving Munster as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I have to take this opportunity presented to me and prioritise my family and personal circumstances at this time.
We still have a few months to go and the goals remain the same - I want to achieve success with this great group of lads!”