Carry on Kidney

THE IRFU announced contract extensions for Declan Kidney and three of his management team yesterday, which will see them remain in charge of the Irish team until the end of the 2012-13 season which coincides with the next British and Irish Lions Tour.

Gert Smal, Less Kiss and Mark Tainton are the others who have put pen to paper, with Alan Gaffney opting to return to his native Australia where he plans to continue involvement with elite rugby coaching.

Kidney and his management team were already under contract until the end of the upcoming World Cup but the decision to extend that tenure is reminiscent of similar deals for previous coach Eddie O’Sullivan which were made prior to the 2003 and 2007 tournaments.

The second of those contracts was only due to expire next March but lasted just over seven months after a disappointing World Cup campaign in France and fourth place in the 2008 Six Nations.

Kidney’s new deal will run out midway through the next World Cup cycle which goes against the accepted wisdom that coaching tenures are best suited to four-year terms bookended by the global competition.

However, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said yesterday the contract was agreed at this juncture to give the team continuity over the next four months, a period which will incorporate the preparations for RWC 2011 and the event itself.

“Apart from securing the Grand Slam in 2009, the team has made significant progress in terms of results and the development of players in international competition,” said Browne.

“This is not only due to the ability of the players, but the standard of coaching they received. The contract extension to the coaching staff allows everybody to plan ahead following the World Cup with a greater degree of certainty and to allow the team to continue to develop. The focus now for the coaches and players is firmly on the preparations for the World Cup and the tournament itself.”

Kidney said his three-years in charge have included some good days and some not so good and described the next 16 weeks as the biggest challenge the current group of players has yet to face.

“It has been a privilege over the last three years to have been involved with Ireland and so I am delighted that the IRFU have offered me the opportunity to continue that work. To be able to work with the level of players and coaches that Ireland have had during that time is a chance that very few get, so it has been a wonderful experience.

“While the World Cup has been our focus in terms of developing the team and what we have been aiming at over the last number of years in terms of squad development, I think there are plenty more young players still to come through to international rugby and that is an exciting prospect for the future.”

Meanwhile, Munster will begin their defence of the newly-named RaboDirect PRO12 – formerly the Magners League – with a home fixture against Newport Gwent Dragons at Musgrave Park on Friday, September 2.

Leinster will make the trip to the Liberty Stadium to face the Ospreys in their opening match, a re-run of the 2010 Grand Final when the Welsh region won in Dublin. Connacht will travel to Treviso and Ulster will host the Warriors at Ravenhill.

The event continues through September and early October while the World Cup is being played in New Zealand, but there will be a two-week break while the semi-finals and final of the global tournament are played.

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