Munster are said to be ready to appoint former Western Force head coach David Wessels as Rassie Erasmus' successor.
The 36-year-old South African is available after the Perth-based Force were cut from Super Rugby.
Erasmus is due to return home to take up his new role as Springboks boss in December.
The IRFU performance director David Nucifora has revealed the appointment could be made before that and could be just weeks away.
Nucifora, who oversees all contract negotiations for national team and provincial coaches, said yesterday that the search for a successor to replace Erasmus, who is taking Munster defence coach and trusted ally Jacques Nienaber with him, had narrowed to one candidate.
The Irish Examiner reported that Erasmus had confirmed last week that Wessels was a candidate and said he would be a good fit for Munster.
The hope within Munster is that a permanent successor can be found for Erasmus, who will leave once the new person has been installed at the province’s High Performance Centre in Limerick, although it has been stressed throughout that there will be no rush to appoint the “right” candidate and a temporary replacement may be appointed on an interim basis while the search continued.
Nucifora, however, is hopeful Munster have got their man and he said: “We have spoken to a number of people over the last number of months and we’re well advanced. I’d be hopeful that we’ve got some news in the short term and I’m hopeful it would be permanent.
“We are working diligently on it and we feel we are close to being able to do something but in any negotiation, things can move or change at the last minute. You never quite know until it’s done but we feel that we’re close. There’s good progress made.
“At the moment we are talking to one person but we have spoken to multiple people over a period of time. At the moment we’re speaking to only one person which is why I can say we’re getting closer.”
With the list of available, suitable candidates in the rugby world a limited one, a temporary replacement may have to be considered, Nucifora conceded, particularly if the search extends beyond a perceived final departure date for Erasmus and defence coach Nienaber of December.
“You have to keep your mind open to everything. Our intention is to get a permanent person. If that weren’t to happen we’d have to consider the other. Is it our preference? No, it’s not.
“Are we closer to getting to having something? Yes, we are.
“I am hopeful we’ll have an answer to this sooner rather than later so that we can engineer a really smooth handover between the coaching groups. You don’t normally get that chance. It’s normally, ‘he’s gone, you’re in, try and work out what they were doing and off you go’ whereas this is a coordinated approach that hopefully will go well.”