Umaga favourite for Munster job

Tana Umaga is first in line to succeed Tony McGahan as Munster coach. The former All Black captain is on a shortlist of three with Canterbury’s ITM coach Rob Penney, and local hero Anthony Foley.

So what do Munster do next? Either they take the search further afield or they choose between Umaga and Penney as partner for Foley. Penney has been passed over a few times at Super Rugby level – though some in Canterbury think he is outstanding – and is pretty much nailed on as a forwards coach. Umaga earned his stellar reputation as an awesome centre, and took up thereafter as a backs coach, which would make him a more comfortable fit with Foley. Either way, the former number eight will be on the ticket.

The problem is that Umaga doesn’t have much of a track record as a coach. There was the Toulon experience in 2008 which needed Philippe Saint Andre to come and rescue from relegation, with Umaga putting his boots back on and playing a useful part on the field.

And since then it extends only to Counties Manakau in New Zealand’s ITM Cup. He went back there last year to assist head coach Milton Haig, ending up mid-table in that competition’s second division. He is due to take over as head coach for this season’s campaign which kicks off in August. Well, not if he’s coming to Munster he won’t.

Umaga would have immediate gravitas with the players simply for what he achieved on the rugby field. And there is a history here of hiring coaches with limited track records. When Michael Cheika came to Leinster nobody had ever heard of him, and when Joe Schmidt succeeded him it was with no experience as head coach.

In wildly different ways both won Heineken Cups. The Schmidt method is so successful that Munster players want the same. In Irish camp they hear their Leinster colleagues banging on about how their coach has changed the way they play and wonder when it will be their turn.

So can Umaga do that? Could be fit in to the Munster way? For sure he would add extra spice to the relationship with Leinster given the leg up himself and Keven Mealamu gave Brian O’Driscoll in 2005. Viewed in the light of how these tackles are treated nowadays it’s like a scene from the wild west.

Certainly Munster could have got more experience and a different way of doing things had they run with John Kirwan, who I understand they interviewed, and knocked back. And they could have got a whole lot more experience still had they even taken the time to interview Eddie O’Sullivan, which they didn’t. Hard to fathom, that.


About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
This entry was posted in All Blacks, Heineken Cup, Irish Rugby, Munster, Munster Rugby, New Zealand Rugby, Rugby News, Rugby Opinion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Umaga favourite for Munster job

  1. Jim Glennon says:

    Good one , Brendan.
    Whatever transpires, there’s a struggle ahead; inexplicable that Eddie wasn’t even interviewed, if only for PR purposes. I’d have thought he was ideal for the particular job at hand currently. Why take unnecessary risks when there are already so many imponderables present – why add another ?

    • Ian Buckley says:

      Ian Buckley says:

      April 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm


      You say “Why add another risk in regard to Umaga , Munster would be doing just the same with Eddie O’Sullivan. Some risks are worth taking , others are just madness.

  2. Ian Buckley says:


    You say “Why add another risk in regard to Umaga , Munster would be doing just the same with Eddie O’Sullivan. Some risks are worth taking , others are just madness.

    • Jim Glennon says:

      Of course there’s a risk in everything; are you suggesting that EOS is as risky as TA ? Come on – compare coaching CVs for starters.

      • gn says:

        Jim, from reading players biographies, most found EOS difficult to communicate with or have a relationship with. And then his need to be in total control of everything just wouldn’t suit Munster. The most successful Munster coach is completely his opposite.

        I see Wayne Smith has not been approached (yet) by the RFU!

      • Ian Buckley says:

        What I said was..”Some risks are worth taking”. In my opinion, Munster taking a risk of Eddie O’Sullivan would be disastrous. He has no rapport with supporters, very poor rapport with the players often at his disposal and no rapport of note with media (not that the media part bothers me).

        Sure he has a great CV, but I wonder on his CV has he cut out the disastrous world cup, lack of a six nations title (yes he won 3 triple crowns) but all with probably the greatest set of players this generation has seen.

        No thanks,

  3. Pingback: Brian O'Driscoll Would-Be Assassin Tana Umaga In Pole Position To Be Next Munster Coach

  4. Declan O'Toole says:

    In what way is EOS ideal for the job at hand?I would have thought with his track record in management conflict that it was an unnecessary risk to consider him. Why pander to PR optics? A risk is a risk is a risk, whether its necessary or not is incidental.

  5. Lewis Shanahan says:

    Could be phenomenal if he implements his defensive style into the set-up, abrassive, fast, and offensive. Don’t know how he’d work with backs like Earls, Zebo and Jones, who all play a totally seperate style to his. Even O’Gara’s style is totally removed to that of teams Umaga has played with before. Think he could try to drastically change Munster’s style of play, which, whilst a change may be necessary, I don’t think he has the experience to do it correctly

  6. John Hunter says:

    Brendan – where on earth is the next generation of Irish international coaching claimants coming from, assuming they are to be Irish born and bred? John Hunter

  7. Michael Lavelle says:

    Surely Munster must consider Conor O’Shea for this role as a Director or Rugby along with a backs coach. Doing an outstanding job at Harlequinns & he is Irish! Also how about Ulster’s Brian McLaughlin? Agree Foley is the long term successor but too young. With regards EOS, his relationship (or lack of) with Foley could have been a deciding factor in why he wasn’t interviewed.

  8. Daniel Lehane says:

    Eos would not bring anything new to the fold. Remember eos coached many of the senior players and their voices would have been heard in the board room. Munster need a fresh view on things that will hopefully introduce new ideas on the pitch. The appointment of.tony seemed to be the safe option

  9. Frank says:

    Rob Penny is the man

  10. Ronan says:

    Rob Penny lacks international coaching experience. John Mitchell, ex All Blacks Assistant Coach and current Golden Lions coach(Currie Cup Winners 2011 for the first time in decades) would be perfect considering he also has solid Limerick ties and is friendly with Pa Whelan and the rest of them in Garryowen & the IRFU

  11. Pingback: Brian O’Driscoll won’t be too happy about the identity of the potential new Munster coach |

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