Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has been sacked with Ireland assistant Les Kiss stepping in as interim director of rugby at Ravenhill.
The news follows the shockdeparture of director of rugby David Humphreys to English Premiership side Gloucester last month.
Kiss, who will continue with his international squad duties, takes up the post on July 19.
The Australian will have responsibility for overseeing current coaches Neil Doak and Jonny Bell and his role will allow time for a review of the coaching structures at Ravenhill where he was a regular visitor over the past five years.”
Kiss was appointed Ireland defensive coach under Declan Kidney in 2009, playing a decisive part in achieving a long-awaited Grand Slam after an agonising 61 years wait.
After Kidney’s departure, Kiss was appointed head coach on an interim basis for their 2013 summer tour to North America. The 49-year-old then joined new coach Joe Schmidt when he resumed his role as defence coach.
Meanwhile, Anscombe had returned from the summer break yesterday as the pre-season slog began in earnest and was immediately summoned for talks with chief executive Shane Logan.
It was not a happy New Zealander who walked away and due to the contractual terms of his dismissal he was not available to the media.
The Kiwi had just recently agreed a one-year extension to his contract having been with Ulster Rugby for the previous two seasons when he took over from Brian McLaughlin who was unexpectedly shown the door despite taking the side to the Heineken Cup final. It is understood a number of senior players had questioned the direction the team was taking under Anscombe.
Anscombe was appointed head coach ahead of the 2012-13 campaign and in his first season in charge led Ulster to the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 and the European knock-out stages before bowing out at the quarter-final stage.
He previously had a three-year spell as head coach of the Auckland ITM Cup side and had combined that role with a number of positions in the very successful NZ U20 squad.
As head coach he steered Baby Blacks to a fourth successive title at the IRB Junior World Championships in Italy. Anscombe, a forwards specialist, enjoyed a previous spell in Irish rugby as he coached Dublin side Old Wesley in the early 1990s.
In a predictable statement, Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan gave little away: “I would like to pay tribute to the contribution that Mark Anscombe made over the past two seasons and to thank him for his hard work and dedication. Everyone at Ulster Rugby wishes him well.”
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