Former Ireland head coach turned UCC Director of Sport Declan Kidney has been announced as head for London Irish in the Aviva Premiership. The move, which reunites Kidney with Ireland coach Les Kiss, with the pair hoping to push the basement side to safety in the top tier of English Rugby Union.
The pair have been appointed on a three-year deal at the club, with the contracts in place regardless of relegation to the Greene King IPA Championship for the 2018/19 season.
Currently London Irish are bottom of the Aviva Premiership, with 15 points from two wins all season. Two wins from two in the opening weekend of the season, quickly saw a fall from grace with the basement side six months without a win.
Speaking ahead of the move, Kidney was wary of the challenge but optimistic ahead of his return to rugby union.
Kidney said: “I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a challenging job. English club rugby is very competitive, and it is going to take several years for us to cement a place at the top end of the Aviva Premiership, but I believe that with the right structures this becomes a realistic ambition for us.”
Mick Crossan, London Irish’s president and majority shareholder, was equally optimistic on the signing of Kidney, speaking with warmth and hope on the appointment,
“We’re as ambitious as every other club in the Aviva Premiership, and in order to achieve the objectives we have set for the club we need to make changes in the coaching structure to give us the best chance for success.
“The current coaches under Brendan Venter, who has occupied a part-time technical director role with the club since summer 2016, have worked very hard to consolidate our position in the Aviva Premiership following promotion last year, but it is fair to say that things haven’t gone to plan.
“Declan will bring a winning mentality to London Irish, something he has shown over a number of years by winning the Heineken Cup twice with Munster and the Grand Slam with Ireland, which he achieved working with Les Kiss as his assistant coach in 2009.”
The pair have a track record of proven success. Originally having worked together between 2008-2013 at the Irish Senior National team, both Kidney and Kiss proved to be a winning combination as they guided Ireland to the 2009 Six Nations grand slam title (Ireland’s first since 1948), while also shepherding the nation into the 2011 Rugby World Cup, where Ireland reached the quarter finals in a memorable campaign which saw Kidney mastermind a 15-6 win over Australia.
At club level both Kidney and Kiss have found different ways of success. Declan Kidney proved his worth in orchestrating the European rise of Munster, with Kidney leading the side to the 2002/03 Celtic League before pushing to the 2004/05 and 2007/2008 Heineken Cup. Kiss, however, had made his name up north in his work with Ulster Rugby. Following his release from Ireland in 2013, Kiss took charge of an emerging Ulster outfit in 2015, guiding the side to the semi finals of the 2015/16 Pro12 and a fifth placed finish for 2016/17.
Kidney and Kiss opened up life in London on the 24th of March, narrowly being defeated by Goulchester in both their home debut and league debut at the helm. The pair fared better in their first away game at the helm, beating Harlequins by a massive margin in Twickenham.