Johann van Graan: 'Munster did everything in their powers to try and retain Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones'

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Johann van Graan: 'Munster did everything in their powers to try and retain Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones'

Munster assistant coaches, Jerry Flannery, left and Felix Jones who are leaving the province at the end of the season

HEAD coach Johann van Graan is adamant Munster did 'everything in their power' to try and retain the services of departing assistant-coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones beyond the end of this season.

Munster have been rocked by the decisions of Flannery and Jones - both former players with the province - not to remain on as part of the backroom team into next season.

The search for three assistant coaches is now dominating the build-up to Munster's big Guinness PRO14 semi-final clash with Leinster at the RDS this Saturday, 2.30pm.

Asked what he would say to Munster fans who were wondering what is going on at the province with news of two home 'grown coaches' leaving, van Graan said: "I don’t think anything is going on. Like I’ve said before I’m very saddened and disappointed that they are going. Both of them got offered contracts and both of them are leaving for different personal reasons.

"It’s a club that both of them like. We as a group of management and players respect them so much and as we do with all people at Munster rugby, it’s a professional sport and people make decisions and people move on.”

 “To Munster supporters I’d say 22 players have signed on. Tadhg Beirne and Craig Casey are the latest additions. Tadhg and Joey (Carbery) signed on with another year on their contracts. All of our Irish guys who we wanted to keep we have kept, so we have an incredible group of players going forward into next season.

"That’s the most important thing for me, that the playing group must be happy and then the support staff right across the organisation are there to make sure that the players perform on the pitch and that’ what we’ll continue to do.”

"Like I’ve said before, it’s very sad and I’m disappointed. I believe the PGB (Professional Games Board) at Munster did everything in their power to retain both of our coaches and unfortunately that didn’t happen, like I’ve noted before. Now we’ve got to look forward.”

Van Graan was adamant that Munster did everything they could to extend the two assistant coaches stay with the province.

 “Yes, I am. Philip Quinn, our acting CEO, as has Garrett (Fitzgerald) before, is doing those negotiations, and I’ve had support from the PGB. At the end of the day I report to the PGB and they did everything in their power that they could have done to retain the two coaches.”

Several names have been linked with possible moves to Munster as an assistant coach over the past week. 

Van Graan said: “There’s been talk about a lot of guys, so I’m not going to respond to any names. I’ve read about a few guys who are supposedly on some short list, some guys I don’t even know. We’ll follow diligent process to get the right people at Munster Rugby.

"We’ll take our time and the most important thing is we must take the team forward, and just make sure that we get guys who can better the team. Both Jerry and Felix are fantastic coaches. They’re guys that I’ve trusted with my life, and both ways. We’ve worked well together so well and I guess you guys can see from the passion in my eyes I really wanted to keep them.

"Unfortunately that’s not the case and you can look at the bottle as half-full or half-empty, I’m going to look at it as half-full and look at positives, and we’ve got to take this team forward now.”