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White & Kidney linked with Ireland coaching job



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Munster coach Declan Kidney emerged on Thursday as the favourite to take on the task of reviving Ireland as a rugby force after Eddie O’Sullivan’s decision to resign in the wake of a disappointing Six Nations campaign.

Jake White, the coach who led South Africa to World Cup glory last year, is also seen as a potential candidate but the former Springboks boss may prefer to wait and see whether a vacancy as England’s head coach opens up.

The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) are due to decide on the future of Brian Ashton next week and there is mounting speculation that he will either step down voluntarily or be asked to leave. There is also speculation that he may stay on with a new team manager being added.

O’Sullivan’s position, already under threat after Ireland flopped out at the group stage of last year’s World Cup, was made untenable in the wake of a 33-10 thrashing by England last weekend, which condemned his talented squad to a fourth-place finish in this year’s Six Nations.

O’Sullivan, 49, said he had decided to step down himself, a decision which spared the Irish RFU a difficult call on whether to dismiss a man who had guided Ireland to three Triple Crown victories since taking charge in 2001, a feat unmatched by any of his predecessors.

Details of O’Sullivan’s severance package were not revealed but he will have walked away with a substantial package having signed a lucrative four-year contract just before the World Cup.

The IRFU are now set to bring in an entirely new coaching team with strength-and-conditioning coach Mike McGurn and skills coach Bryan McLoughlin having left their positions earlier in the week.

IRFU Chief Executive, Philip Browne, on Thursday paid tribute to O’Sullivan’s achievement in leading Ireland to a position where they went into the World Cup regarded as the most consistent of the northern hemisphere countries.

“In accepting Eddie’s wish to step down, I want to emphasise the high regard the Union has for him and the achievements he attained during his reign in office,” Browne said.

“His record as Ireland’s most successful coach is his proud legacy and all of us in Irish rugby are grateful to him for the many memorable moments and achievements our senior Irish players and squads attained to during his coaching tenure.” O’Sullivan was a modestly gifted player, winning only one Ireland ‘A’ cap as a winger before making his mark as the coach of Ireland’s under-21s.

After being promoted to assistant coach of the senior squad, he stepped up to head coach when Warren Gatland was eased out of the position in 2001.

His success up until early 2007 resulted in him being seen as a potential future coach of the British and Irish Lions, but things started to go badly wrong for him in the run-up to last year’s World Cup.

After taking an under-strength side to Argentina two months before the tournament, O’Sullivan was felt to have left his best players under-cooked and defeats by France and Argentina ensured an early flight home.

He survived that setback but Ireland’s worst Six Nations performance since 1999 sealed his fate.

Having long been regarded as an inspirational man-manager and a shrewd tactician, O’Sullivan now faces the prospect of being viewed as the coach who failed to get the most out of a ‘golden generation’ of Irish players.

Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com   

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