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Easterby joins Ireland set-up

Simon Easterby has been confirmed as Ireland's new forwards coach.

The former Ireland captain will replace John Plumtree in head coach Joe Schmidt's back-room set-up, with the New Zealander returning home for family reasons.

Easterby will assume his new role in October, in time for Ireland's autumn international Guinness Series of Tests against South Africa, Georgia and Australia.

Easterby will leave the Scarlets after two years as head coach of the club where he plied his back-row trade for seven years.

"Simon has tremendous Test match experience combined with an in-depth knowledge of the current national squad players," said Ireland boss Schmidt.

"He is well-known to Irish rugby supporters, and to many of the players, and his knowledge and experience will help drive the team forward."

Easterby won 65 Ireland caps between 2000 and 2008, touring New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 2005.

The 38-year-old's departure adds another further blow to the beleaguered Welsh rugby set-up, with the union and regions still continuing their civil war.

Blues and Wales captain Sam Warburton remains the only international star to have signed a central contract, and he is still awaiting final confirmation of his club commitments for the new campaign.

Easterby will bolster Ireland's ranks, with David Nucifora now in place as high performance manager and Les Kiss continuing as defence coach - despite taking on the caretaker rugby director role at Ulster.

Kiss has stepped into the breach following David Humphreys' move to Aviva Premiership club Gloucester.

Easterby admitted he is relishing his impending move, with Ireland heading into the new campaign as the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions.

"It's an exciting time to be involved in Irish rugby and I am looking forward to helping the team continue to be as competitive as possible," he said.

Easterby will have his work cut out to match Plumtree's impact, with the Kiwi having transformed Ireland's pack into a hard-nosed, unforgiving unit.

Plumtree's legacy will include turning Ireland's driving line-out into one of the side's chief weapons, and Easterby will know he must sustain the high levels of intensity Ireland showed in the tight last season.

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