Two of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland assistants will now spend their pre-season and more overseeing the affairs of clubs after confirmation yesterday Simon Easterby is to take over the role of forwards coach with the national side.
Easterby, capped 65 times in the green jersey, will continue to work with Scarlets where he was head coach since 2012, throughout the rest of the summer and into the first rounds of the 2014/15 season before linking up with Schmidt in October.
Les Kiss, who is Ireland’s defence coach, had already been parachuted into the chair vacated by Mark Anscombe in Ulster this summer with the Australian assuming the role in an interim basis that is due to last months rather than weeks.
“What was also important to Simon and the Scarlets was to ensure we have everything in place for next season,” said the region’s chief executive Mark Davies, who wished his former head coach well in his new role.
“It’s been vital to retain Simon throughout our pre-season and into the first phase of our competitions so that we have an effective hand-over and ensure the game structures the coaching group have worked through in the off-season, along with our strengthened squad, gel well together.”
Easterby joins the national setup on the back of two years with the Welsh region which reached the PRO12 playoffs under his control in year one. League form last time out was less satisfactory although it was compensated somewhat by Heineken Cup defeats of Harlequins and Racing Metro.
He takes over as Ireland forwards coach from John Plumtree who, despite staying only one season, engineered significant improvements from a pack which he consistently challenged to be world-class.
Easterby has far less coaching experience than the Kiwi but he brings a greater personal knowledge base of the men in his charge given his familiarity with them through the PRO12 and Heineken Cup.
Easterby described the decision to leave Scarlets, with whom he also spent over a decade as a player, as “emotional”, but is clearly eager to get his feet under the table and take notes from one of the most respected head coaches in the game today.
“I am very grateful to the Scarlets board for allowing this to happen and for respecting and supporting my ambition and development as a coach at international level,” said Easterby.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me in Ireland and one I am very excited about, but it’s been a very emotional decision to leave the region that has been such a major part of my rugby career.”
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