Declan Kidney finished down on his luck in the 2013 Six Nations: three defeats and a draw followed the solitary opening-day victory over Wales in Cardiff. Now, he is finished as Ireland coach. The 53-year-old former maths teacher from County Cork was shown the door by his governing body – a development widely predicted by Emerald Isle rugby experts after last month's excruciating loss to Italy in Rome, in which the Munsterman got his sums badly wrong.
The Irish Rugby Football Union announced that Kidney would not be offered a new contract on expiry of his current deal at the end of June and confirmed that with the defence coach Les Kiss taking charge of the summer tour of North America, he would leave his position immediately. It was a hard fall for a man who guided Munster through their great days of European campaigning and began his five-year international stint with a Grand Slam – Ireland's first in more than half a century.
A review group has been set up to identify potential successors and the list is expected to include former Wales coach Mike Ruddock, who has strong links in Dublin, and Joe Schmidt, the New Zealander whose recent work with Leinster has been nothing short of outstanding. Schmidt was felt by many to be worthy of a place on this year's British and Irish Lions back-room staff.
Unofficial candidate lists will feature the usual suspects. Conor O'Shea, of Harlequins, has been heavily linked with the job in the last few days and his name will continue to be bandied around, despite two clear statements of disinterest from the man himself, while the World Cup-winning Australian prop Ewen McKenzie is the source of much speculation, not least in Wallaby country. McKenzie intends to leave his current coaching post with Queensland Reds and may well head back to Europe, where he gained experience with the Parisian club Stade Francais.
"With a host of new and emerging talent at every level, we are confident of securing another world-class coach," said Philip Browne, the IRFU chief executive
Elsewhere, Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson insists he is pleased with the job done by interim head coach Scott Johnson – but has warned a decision on whether to hand him the job permanently is still some way off.