Former Munster and Ireland scrum-half Michael Bradley is being touted as a contender to take charge of Ulster.
Former director of rugby Les Kiss left earlier this year with his temporary stand-in Jono Gibbes returning to New Zealand at the end of the season. Some senior players at Ravenhill believe that Cork-born Bradley, who was interim Ireland head coach when they toured New Zealand and Australia 10 years ago, would fit the bill perfectly.
It is also believed former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan would be interested in attempting to turn around a struggling side lacking in confidence and passion and get them back to winning ways.
It is doubtful that the IRFU would rail against a move to have an indigenous coach in charge up north. However, as far as Bradley is concerned, the IRFU and Ulster operations manager Bryn Cunningham would need to move quickly. Sources in Italy say that Bradley, who is now head coach at Italian side Zebre, has had a new two-year deal thrust in front of him which could be inked in the next fortnight or so.
Bradley, along with the Azzurri head coach Conor O’Shea, has helped Italian rugby make strides this season, particularly in PRO14.
Bradley has been on a coaching journey that has taken him around the world. Following his retirement from playing, the 40-times capped Bradley has seen tours of duties with Ireland U21 and Ireland A before coaching Connacht for seven years.
After that trip Down Under with Ireland, he was involved with the Georgian Rugby Union on two occasions as defence guru, before moving to Edinburgh in 2011, guiding them to their first European Cup semi-final when they were beaten by Ulster.
After being appointed Scotland A coach in 2012, and his second spell with Georgia, he had a brief spell with CSM Bucuresti in Romania before being appointed to his current post at the start of last season.
Meanwhile, Ulster’s three Grand Slam heroes are available for Saturday’s PRO14 trip to Cardiff. But apart from Iain Henderson, who could be on the bench, they are unlikely to start. Gibbes said yesterday: “Rory (Best), Iain (Henderson) and Jacob (Stockdale) are available. Will they play? I am not sure.
“We are on a different calendar to some of the other teams. But to have them around is great after what they have just experienced and come through. To have them back in the environment is a boost for us. What part they will play straight away I do not know, but just having their quality around is great.”
Meanwhile former New Zealand international Dylan Mika has died suddenly at the age of 45, his family have announced.
Flanker Mika played seven Tests for the All Blacks and was a member of their 1999 World Cup squad. He died at his home in Auckland on Tuesday, and is survived by his wife and daughter.
“It is with great sadness that the family of Dylan announce that he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in Auckland,” his family said in a statement published on allblacks.com.
“Dylan was a very much loved husband to Tracy, father to their daughter Marley, and dearly loved son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. He was a hugely talented athlete, well respected in the Samoan community and abroad but just as importantly to his friends and family a warm wonderful caring man. Gone far too soon at the age of just 45.”
Mika initially played international rugby for Samoa, before switching his allegiance to New Zealand. NZRU chief Steve Tew said: “Dylan is one of the rare talents, that represented both Samoa and New Zealand at a time when rugby had not long turned professional.
“He continued to have an active involvement in rugby both in Auckland and Samoa, and in particular, in his loyalty to the New Zealand Barbarians.”
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