When Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell decided to spread their coaching wings outside of Ireland, rather than dive in head-first closer to home, they both spoke of the freedom that came with stepping out of the ‘bubble’.
To go from your comfort zone and try something different is important,” O’Connell said during his short stay at Stade Francais.
Although O’Gara’s and O’Connell’s paths haven’t yet led them back to Munster, two of their former team-mates, who also took the road less travelled, look increasingly likely to be making the move home.
Mike Prendergast has been on that road for the last nine years. Little did he know when he left his role as Young Munster director of rugby to take up an offer to work with Bernard Jackman in Grenoble in 2013, that 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 couple of years has been hugely valuable.
When Graham Rowntree first applied for the Munster head coach job, he had to present the IRFU and the province’s hierarchy with his masterplan.
It’s understood that Prendergast and Leamy featured prominently in Rowntree’s vision for the future, and now it’s about putting the finishing touches to what Munster will hope are two significant coups for their new-look coaching staff.
Another man believed to be in the equation is Andy Kyriacou. While his name may not be as familiar, he is highly-regarded in Munster as the province’s academy forwards coach.
Having played nine games for the province during a loan spell in the 2006/’07 season, Kyriacou later spent three seasons with Ulster and played twice for Ireland ‘A’. Since injury forced the former hooker to retire, Kyriacou has coached in Cardiff, Sale, Russia and Nottingham.
Like Leamy and Prendergast, Kyriacou (39) has experienced different environments and he has made such a big impact since returning to Munster that Rowntree could see his fellow Englishman as the final part of his backroom team.
From the outset, the incoming head coach identified Prendergast as the man to lead Munster’s attack.
That situation has always been complicated by the fact that Prendergast is under contract at Racing 92. While getting him out of Paris might have been easier had Munster appointed Rowntree earlier in the season, the hope is that all parties can reach an agreement that would see the highly-rated Limerick man back on home soil.
In Racing, where some of the best attacking talent are working under Prendergast, the players rave about the 44-year-old’s impact.
Having worked at Grenoble, Oyonnax, Stade and Racing, Prendergast has steadily been climbing the ladder and although he will be in no hurry to leave the good life in Paris, the lure of home will count for a lot.
Despite Munster’s attack looking sharper in recent weeks, they are crying out for fresh impetus, and Prendergast could see himself working alongside Rowntree.
Recruiting Leamy from Leinster, where he was promoted from his role as an elite player development officer to contact skills coach last October, may be more straightforward, but much will depend on the Tipperary native feeling ready to immerse himself in what will be an entirely different pressurised environment.
Leamy has already worked with Munster’s underage teams, as well as Rockwell College, Garryowen, Cashel and the Ireland U-20s, but taking on the defence coach gig would be a big step up.
The 40-year-old, who played 145 games for Munster and won 57 Ireland caps, has been making a name for himself in Leinster, despite only working with the senior team in an official capacity for a matter of months.
Josh van der Flier recently spoke glowingly of the improvements he has made around the contact area, particularly the breakdown.
With Stuart Lancaster flying back to Dublin from South Africa to prepare Leinster’s front-liners for next week’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Leicester, Leamy stayed on in Cape Town, and has been given even more responsibility under head coach Leo Cullen.
Considering the man he replaced at Leinster, Hugh Hogan, earned a defence coach job with the Scarlets on the back of the work he did with the Blues, Leamy may well be about to follow suit.
After a lull in terms of the talk surrounding the make-up of next season’s coaching ticket, Munster supporters will hope there is white smoke on the horizon.
As O’Connell said, stepping out of your comfort zone is important for a young coach. Leamy and Prendergast have done just that, which should stand to them if they do come home.