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Coventry to take London Irish post

London Irish have announced the appointment of Tom Coventry as head coach for the 2015-16 season.

Coventry will arrive from Super Rugby team the Chiefs, where he has acted as assistant coach in the most successful period in their history. He will take over from Brian Smith, who has been released early from his contract on compassionate grounds.

"To stay fresh as a coach, it is important to immerse yourself in new environments, new challenges and experiences and that is what I am going to do," Coventry said.

Coventry has been at the Chiefs for four years where he worked beneath former All Blacks head coach Wayne Smith. During that time the franchise won two Super Rugby titles.

Waikato born and raised, Coventry played 52 games for the province between 1988 and 1994, scoring 14 tries and winning the NPC in 1992 before launching his coaching career at Otago University.

"I had lengthy discussions with the board of directors at London Irish and, with the significant investment that has been put into the club, especially with the new training facility, it made my decision to join a straightforward one," Coventry added.

"The owners have a clear vision of where they want to take the club and it's a challenge I'm immensely excited by. I can't wait to get stuck in when I join."

Former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney had been linked with a move to the Madejski Stadium, but London Irish rugby development director Bob Casey insisted Coventry was the right man to lead the club forward.

"The club's rugby committee has undertaken an extensive international search to find a top calibre coach to take London Irish forward," Casey said.

"Tom Coventry proved to be an outstanding candidate given his individual character and rugby experience.

"He comes from the best rugby environment in the world where he has had much success and worked with two of New Zealand's leading coaches in Wayne Smith and Dave Rennie.

"It is a great coup for London Irish to secure a coach of Tom's calibre to lead our rugby programme over the coming seasons."

Smith has been granted early release from his contract, which was due to expire on June 30, and is to return to Australia for family reasons, leaving Glenn Delaney to oversee the team as interim head coach.

Delaney insists Coventry, a fellow Kiwi, joins Irish with a strong pedigree.

"The Chiefs have been one of the highest-performing franchises in New Zealand for some time and I know a lot of the coaches there - Wayne Smith has been a mentor of mine for a long time," Delaney said.

"I have a lot of friends in coaching who speak very highly of Coventry. He's a good man with good values and has clearly been selected by the board as someone who will represent them.

"The board has the soul of the club at their hearts and they wouldn't have made an appointment that wouldn't be in keeping with their values and the direction in which they want to take the club."

Irish have been linked with a move for 41-cap New Zealand prop Ben Franks, brother of fellow All Black Owen.

"I've known the Franks brothers for a long time. They are great players and it's great for the club to be linked with players like that," Delaney said.

"Signing players like that is one of our aspirational goals. We want to have excellent high-end players playing for this club."

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