Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Coach Kidney's future could be sealed by a Kiss

Declan Kidney

Declan Kidney is not expected to survive today's Six Nations review meeting with the National Team Review Group in Dublin.

Kidney will surely find an audience sympathetic to the many setbacks Ireland suffered during the championship, and he will rightly point out that Ireland were within one score in each of their four losses this season.

But 16 wins from 40 Tests since the end of the 2009 Grand Slam-winning season is a damning statistic and probably an impossible one to come back from.

So with the incumbent on the ropes, thoughts must turn to potential successors. Ideally, the IRFU will have already begun the process of approaching potential candidates. It is, after all, surely ludicrous to suggest the decision on Kidney's future will be made on the basis of Saturday's result.

The IRFU might play for time and a compromise might be to sacrifice Kidney and retain his assistants for the summer tour, with someone like Ireland U-20 coach Mike Ruddick as interim head coach.

That, though, would hardly be an ideal situation, especially as Les Kiss must surely be in the running for the job of head coach on a permanent basis.

Appointing Kiss would ensure continuity, which might not be a bad idea given the number of new faces introduced over the past six months. Such a move would also probably ensure Anthony Foley's continued involvement as defensive coach, one of the few success stories of Ireland's season.

It is also highly possible that an appointment of one or both of Leinster's Joe Schmidt and Clermont's Vern Cotter would allow for Foley to remain. His contract with Munster and the IRFU is, like that of the Ireland senior coaches, up at the end of this season.

If the decision is to cast the net wider than those currently within the Irish structure, an irresistible potential candidate is former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett.

Mallett was one of two serious candidates for England last year, just losing out to Stuart Lancaster, and he was also linked with the vacant Scotland position following Andy Robinson's departure in November.

He led South Africa to a record-equalling 17 consecutive victories and the 1998 Tri-Nations title before a falling-out with the Union over ticket prices saw him resign.

In 2003 and 2004 he led Stade Francais to consecutive French championships before spending four years with Italy, who he inspired to first victories over Argentina and France – he is largely credited with starting the resurgence there.

Mallett has a reputation of being an outspoken and driven personality but with Stade and Italy he didn't insist on bringing in his own back-room team, which will be of interest to the IRFU if they are intent on continuing to develop indigenous coaches like Foley.

Hopefully the IRFU have been planning for the possibility of being in the market for a new coach and the process of identifying a successor is well down the road.

It is only logical for a full-time appointment be made now as it is surely preferable that whoever oversees the tour to America and Canada is also the man to bring the team to the World Cup in 2015.

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