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Rugby News
24-04-08, 09:24 AM
Ireland's coach in waiting Kidney determined to go out on Heineken high with Munster
By PETER JACKSON

Declan Kidney, Ireland's head coach-in-waiting, has challenged Munster to smash their final English hoodoo this weekend against Saracens at Coventry.

His appointment in succession to Eddie O'Sullivan is due next week when Europe's 2006 champions hope to have guaranteed him the perfect climax to his provincial career a second Heineken Cup final against London Irish or Toulouse in Cardiff on May 24.

Today's revelation that former All Blacks' coach John Mitchell has ruled himself out makes Kidney's appointment little more than a formality.

Not that he would discuss anything yesterday other than Munster's latest shot at ending their losing sequence against English opponents in European semi-finals and finals Northampton at Twickenham in the 2000 final, Leicester at Cardiff in the 2001 final and Wasps at Lansdowne Road in the 2004 semi-final.

Mitchell, speaking from Perth where he runs the Western Force Super 14 franchise, dealt himself out for the same reason as when England asked him if he would be interested in the aftermath of Andy Robinson's sacking 17 months ago.

The New Zealander, 44, learned part of his trade in Ireland, first as a player-coach with Garryowen, then in charge of the Irish forwards for a brief spell in 1995 before doing the same job for England after leaving Sale.

He had been on a short-list of three with the third man thought to have been Jake White, of South Africa. "I've had an approach from Ireland," said Mitchell.

"I don't deny I want to come back and coach in the British Isles but not now. I have a four-year contract here and I'm big on showing loyalty to this organisation.

"There have been some opportunities but building up this brand new club is important to me. I've been very clear about not pursuing any interest from overseas. There are plenty of challenges here."

Kidney will be the sixth national coach installed during the six months since the World Cup, following Warren Gatland (Wales), Pieter de Villiers (South Africa), Robbie Deans (Australia), Thomas Lievremont (France) and Martin Johnson (England).

A 46-year-old former maths teacher in his native Cork, his elevation to the national job comes at the end of a long and eventful journey.

The trip has had more than its share of twists since Kidney made a name by coaching Ireland to their 1997 Junior World Cup triumph.

He joined O'Sullivan as assistant coach after Gatland's removal in 2001, a partnership which did not survive the expiry of Kidney's contract in April 2004.

He then changed direction and made the briefest of forays into Wales with the Newport Gwent Dragons, so brief that he did not see the team in action.

No sooner had Kidney signed a contract than a vacancy occurred back in Ireland with Leinster and Newport's sympathetic millionaire chairman, Tony Brown, agreed to let him return home.

Before the end of that first season in Dublin, Kidney was back where he started, taking over as Munster's head coach in succession to Gaffney whose Saracens team stand between the Red Army and another final.

"We've never beaten an English side at this late stage of the competition," said Kidney, talking the opposition up in time-honoured fashion.

"You'd be a silly man to think Sunday's match will be anything other than a tough battle against a team run by Alan Gaffney."

Munster will be wary lest the veteran Australian cracks some of the line-out codes used during his reign at Thomond Park.

"The biggest thing Alan will have is an understanding of Munster mentality," said international hooker Jerry Flannery.

"As for the calls, we might have to tweak one or two but we know that Saracens will bring massive intensity."

Whatever their fate in Europe, Munster, already resigned to forwards coach Jim Williams returning to Australia, will be in danger of losing more than just Kidney.

Tony McGahan, 35, the Australian signed by Munster last year, will be another major target as defence coach, especially in the light of his team's phenomenal performance in the course of winning their quarter-final at Gloucester earlier this month.

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zabbo
27-04-08, 10:40 PM
It was more or less marked as a certaintity on Irish TV this evening, despite large chunks of money being put on Jake White last week.