Bradley to be interim coach

THE Irish Rugby Football Union will tomorrow name Michael Bradley as interim national coach for the games against the Barbarians along with the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia.

Churchill Cup team boss Bradley has been called on board along with manager Joey Miles as Declan Kidney awaits confirmation of his appointment to succeed Eddie O’Sullivan.

But given Kidney’s Heineken Cup final commitments with Munster, IRFU chiefs have asked Bradley to take charge in the short term until the new management team — which is also set to include Paul McNaughton as manager — can be put in place. South Africa’s World Cup forwards’ coach Gert Smal is in the running for a place in backroom team, working alongside Kidney — and in the Munster backroom team as a replacement for the departing Jim Williams. Outgoing Scotland forwards coach George Graham and Niall O’Donovan have also applied for Williams’ job as former Wales and Llanelli Scarlets coach Gareth Jenkins.

A Munster spokesman confirmed this weekend that Jenkins, is being considered for the post that Williams will vacate at the end of the season, when he returns to his native Australia to take up a post as assistant to new Wallaby boss Robbie Deans.

Jenkins was reportedly seen at Shannon Airport last week, prompting speculation that he had met with Munster officials in Limerick to discuss the role. He is also believed to have held talks with Leinster.

However, the Munster spokes-person added that no decision will be made until head coach Declan Kidney’s future is decided.

Kidney is expected to be unveiled as the new Ireland coach this week, with high-ranking Munster sources indicating the move is “a done deal”.

As part of a fascinating merry-go-round of coaches between Wales and Ireland, Jenkins has also been linked with a shock return to the Scarlets as their elite performance director. Nigel Davies, who featured in the Welsh set-up as assistant to Jenkins before he was shown the door by Wales following their embarrassing World Cup exit at the hands of Fiji, is expected to replace Phil Davies, who was sensationally fired by the Scarlets last week after a dismal season which saw them win just nine times in 25 outings.

Caretaker coach Paul Moriarty, who has also thrown his hat into the ring, revealed that Davies learned of his imminent departure in a newspaper, just hours before being sacked.

“It’s been a strange week. I came in on Wednesday morning, and Phil was sitting in his office, ready to take a training session, reading the paper, which is saying not that he might be getting sacked, but that he will be,” he said.

Meanwhile, Munster defence coach Tony McGahan has dispelled fears that injuries suffered to front-rowers Jerry Flannery and Federico Pucciariello during Saturday’s win over the Scarlets might rule them out of contention for their Heineken Cup final clash with Toulouse.

Flannery left the field gingerly clutching his arm in the 49th minute, while Pucciariello limped off late on. McGahan insisted Flannery’s withdrawal was precautionary and said Pucciariello had merely sustained a dead leg, insisting both would be fit for the Cardiff date.

While coach Declan Kidney had emptied his entire bench by the 61st minute, McGahan refuted suggestions that Munster were looking to wrap their stars in cotton wool ahead of the Millennium Stadium showdown.

“We wanted a bit more freshness and enthusiasm throughout the side, which we got from the reserves that came on,” he said.

The Australian bemoaned the weak tackling that allowed Scarlets wing Matthew Watkins to score his first try in seven months with a first-half solo effort, and stressed the importance of finding form prior to the final.

“We need to keep going, it’s an important stage leading into the final, and we were coming off a disappointing result against Ulster so getting a win was important,” he said.

“The first half was very poor and the boys were very disappointed. But to their credit they turned it around. We need to regroup, look at the things we did well and move forward from there.”


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