When Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell decided to spread their coaching wings outside of Ireland rather than dive headfirst into home, they both spoke of the freedom that came with exiting the ‘bubble’.
It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try something different,” said O’Connell during his brief stay at the Stade Francais.
Although O’Gara and O’Connell’s paths have not yet taken them back to Munster, it seems increasingly likely that two of their former teammates, who also chose less traveled roads, will be making their way home.
Mike Prendergast has been on this journey for nine years. When he left his role as Young Munster rugby director in 2013 to accept an offer to work with Bernard Jackman in Grenoble, little did he know he would still be coaching at the highest level in France.
Denis Leamy doesn’t have the same experience outside of Ireland but working with Leinster over the last few years has been tremendously valuable.
When Graham Rowntree first applied for the job as Munster head coach, he had to present his master plan to the IRFU and the provincial hierarchy.
It’s understood that Prendergast and Leamy have played prominent roles in Rowntree’s vision for the future, and now it’s about what Munster hopes to put the finishing touches on, two significant coups for their revamped coaching staff.
Another man believed to be in the equation is Andy Kyriacou. Even if his name is not so well known, he is highly regarded in Münster as a striker coach at the state academy.
After playing nine games for the provinces on loan in the 2006/07 season, Kyriacou later spent three seasons with Ulster and played twice for Ireland’s ‘A’. Kyriacou has trained in Cardiff, Sale, Russia and Nottingham since an injury forced the former hooker to retire.
Like Leamy and Prendergast, Kyriacou, 39, has experienced different environments and has made so much impact since returning to Munster that Rowntree could see his fellow Englishman as the last part of his backroom team.
From the start, the new head coach identified Prendergast as the man who would lead Munster’s attack.
This situation has always been complicated by the fact that Prendergast is signed to Racing 92. While it would have been easier to get him out of Paris had Munster appointed Rowntree earlier in the season, there is hope that all parties can reach an agreement that would see the cherished Limerick man back on home soil.
In racing, where some of the best attacking talent work under Prendergast, players rave about the impact of the 44-year-old.
Having worked in Grenoble, Oyonnax, Stade and Racing, Prendergast has steadily climbed the ladder and while he will be in no hurry to leave the good life of Paris, the lure of home will matter much.
Although Munster’s attack has looked sharper in recent weeks, they are crying out for renewed impetus and Prendergast could envision working alongside Rowntree.
Recruiting Leamy from Leinster, where he was promoted from his role as elite player development officer to contact skills coach last October, might be easier, but much will depend on whether the Tipperary native feels ready to dive into something completely different under pressurized environment.
Leamy has worked with underage sides from Munster, as well as Rockwell College, Garryowen, Cashel and the Ireland U-20 players, but taking on the role of defense coach would be a huge step up.
The 40-year-old, who made 145 appearances for Munster and won 57 caps for Ireland, has made a name for himself at Leinster despite spending just a few months in an official capacity with the senior side.
Josh van der Flier recently spoke enthusiastically about the improvements he’s made in the contact area, particularly in terms of penetration.
While Stuart Lancaster flew back to Dublin from South Africa to prepare Leinster’s frontliners for next week’s Champions Cup quarter-finals against Leicester, Leamy stayed in Cape Town and was given even more responsibility under head coach Leo Cullen.
Given that the man he replaced at Leinster, Hugh Hogan, landed a job as defensive coach with the Scarlets based on his work with the Blues, Leamy may well be following suit.
After a pause in relation to the discussion about catching up on the coaching ticket for next season, the Munsters hope that white smoke will appear on the horizon.
As O’Connell said, getting out of your comfort zone is important for a young coach. Leamy and Prendergast have done exactly what should be theirs when they get home.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/taking-the-long-road-home-should-help-denis-leamy-and-mike-prendergast-in-munster-set-up-41594961.html Taking the long way home should help Denis Leamy and Mike Prendergast at Munster