London Irish are preparing to appoint another southern hemisphere coach following their decision to cut short Brian Smith’s stay as rugby director.
Tom Coventry, a New Zealander currently coaching the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Super 15, has emerged as the clear favourite to take over at the Madejski Stadium, although he is not likely to head for the Premiership until the summer.
Coventry has a good deal of experience working with the biggest names in the sport and among his back-room staff is the respected former All Black strategist Wayne Smith, one of the men at the heart of New Zealand’s World Cup win four years ago and a former target for England coach Stuart Lancaster.
Irish have announced that forwards coach Glenn Delaney will run team affairs for the rest of the campaign, adding that Smith had been granted early release on “compassionate grounds”. The Australian, who was on the England coaching staff at the 2011 World Cup, had certainly been planning to fly to Sydney later this month to visit his father, who is recovering from heart surgery. However, he also wanted to see out the season at the Madejski before moving back to his homeland.
Meanwhile, there were significant moves in the player market by two of the most ambitious clubs in the Premiership. Gloucester, slowly rebuilding after the personnel upheavals of last year, confirmed the signing of the All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush, while Northampton landed a solid blow domestically by luring tight-head prop Kieran Brookes away from Newcastle.
Thrush, capped 11 times, will join Gloucester after this autumn’s World Cup, while Brookes is in the shake-up for a front-row spot in Lancaster’s squad for the big tournament.