Rob Penney to depart Munster after season

SHANE DE BARRA
Last updated 03:48 07/02/2014
Rob Penney
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
ROB PENNEY: "I would have loved to have [coached a Super Rugby team] but I think the opportunity might have slipped by now."

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Former Canterbury coach Rob Penney has stunned Irish rugby fans by deciding to quit his role as head coach of European giants Munster and take up an offer in Japan.

Penney, who joined the two-time Heineken Cup-winning Irish province in 2012 on a two-year contract with the option of a third year, has enjoyed success this season with Munster currently sitting on top of the Rabo Pro 12 table and awaiting a hotly anticipated home quarterfinal with French giants Toulouse in the European Cup.

While the identity of Penney's new club is as yet unconfirmed, a lucrative offer from Japan seems to be what's lured the New Zealander from a team he was making noticeable progress with - Munster have won 15 of 18 games so far this season. He will remain in Ireland to see out the end of his two-year deal.

Also leaving Munster is backs coach and former All Black Simon Mannix.

In a brief statement to Irish media overnight, Penney remained coy about his new abode but said it was simply an offer he could not refuse.

"I am very disappointed to be leaving Munster as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here," Penney said.

"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."

In what will be seen as a major blow to Munster's hopes of scaling European heights once more, club boss Garrett Fitzgerald said it was with a heavy heart that he saw Penney depart but wished him all the best for the future.

"Rob has been a 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," he said.

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