While the Irish Rugby Football Union announced the appointment of a head coach in waiting yesterday – Declan Kidney will concentrate on Munster's final push for the Heineken Cup and miss Ireland's summer tour to New Zealand and Australia before taking hold of the reins – reports emerged from South Africa suggesting that Leicester have a head coach waiting to depart.
It comes as no surprise that Kidney has been confirmed as Eddie O'Sullivan's replacement; the man who guided Munster to victory in the 2006 Heineken Cup final against Biarritz in Cardiff, and who has another shot at the prized European pot with them in this year's final against Toulouse on 24 May, was the front runner for the vacancy as soon as O'Sullivan resigned in the wake of the Six Nations Championship. It will also register close to zero on the rugby union Richter scale that Leicester have apparently been sounding out a potential replacement for Marcelo Loffreda.
The cat was let out of the Tigers' bag by Dick Muir, the former Springbok centre who coaches the Sharks in Natal. He told reporters that he had been approached by Leicester but that he was looking no farther than the race for the Super 14 semi-finals. "It is an honour to be approached by a famous club so rich in history and success, but nothing should be read into it," Muir said. "It is that time of year when European clubs are putting out feelers as they do their forward planning. At present I am not interested in anything but the Sharks and the semi-finals."
Whether Muir has a long-term interest in moving to Welford Road remains to be seen. News of Leicester's interest has come while he has been involved in protracted talks about becoming backs coach in the new Springbok regime headed by Peter de Villiers.
Muir is not the first coach to be linked with Leicester – Jake White, South Africa's World Cup-winning coach of 2007, and O'Sullivan have already been mentioned in dispatches – and this latest development will not exactly assure Loffreda about his long-term future at Welford Road. Indeed, his future at Leicester may not extend much beyond the visit of Dean Richards' Harlequins this coming Saturday. The Tigers need a win to secure Heineken Cup qualification and must get out the prayer mat in the hope that results elsewhere contrive to scrape them into the Guinness Premiership play-offs.
It has been a difficult time in the East Midlands for Loffreda – arriving virtually midway through the season after guiding Argentina to a third-place finish in the World Cup last autumn, uprooting with his family from Buenos Aires, where he combined his part-time national coaching role with working as a sales manager for a clothing company.
Kidney worked as a teacher and careers guidance officer before he broke into professional rugby and worked his way up to the appointment he described yesterday as "the pinnacle of my career".