Gloucester exit surprises Melville

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The Independent Online

Gloucester yesterday parted company with Nigel Melville, their director of rugby, and speculation immediately mounted about who would take over.

Gloucester yesterday parted company with Nigel Melville, their director of rugby, and speculation immediately mounted about who would take over.

Reports circulated that Melville would be succeeded by the former All Black wing John Kirwan, recently sacked as Italy coach. But last night Kirwan, speaking from his home in Treviso, said: "No one from Gloucester has contacted me." However, the New Zealander would almost certainly be interested in such a job.

As for Melville, he had recently been linked with the vacancy at Leinster, but it is understood that he has asked not to be placed on a shortlist for that job, preferring to stay in England.

Yesterday's departure of the former England scrum-half was completely unexpected. On Monday, Melville had a chat with Tom Walkinshaw, the chairman and owner of Gloucester and, according to sources close him, had emerged from the talks feeling optimistic about his future at Kingsholm.

On the same day Ken Nottage, the Gloucester chief executive, was quoted as saying that no review of either Melville's job or that of the head coach, Dean Ryan, was planned.

Yesterday morning all that was rendered meaningless when Melville was summoned to Nottage's office and mutually agreed to leave the club - effectively he was sacked.

In the light of Gloucester's record under Melville it is difficult to understand why they have let him depart. He joined from Wasps in March 2002 and just a year later they won the Powergen Cup and finished top of the Zurich Premiership.

However, that was the season when the Zurich Championship was introduced and Gloucester lost to Wasps in the inaugural final at Twickenham.

This year their sixth-place finish in the Premiership was their lowest in Melville's time and in all competitions they won 69 out of the 109 games where he was in charge. It is understood that Ryan, appointed by Melville in 2002, will be staying at Kingsholm for the time being.

Harlequins yesterday announced that they had managed to re-sign a number of their senior players, including the wing Ugo Monye and the prop Mike Worsley, who take part in the Churchill Cup with England in Canada next month.

George Harder, Mel Deane, Gavin Duffy and Tani Fuga also signed up for next season despite Quins, who were relegated from the Zurich Premiership last month, playing in National League One. Last week the captain Andre Vos, Will Greenwood and Tony Diprose pledged their immediate future to the club.

Worcester have signed the Brive full-back Nicolas Leroux.

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