Friday 13 December 2019

McLaughlin Academy move still up in the air

Hugh Farrelly

OUTGOING Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has yet to sign a contract on the proposed move to head up the provincial Academy, according to sources.

McLaughlin, who led Ulster to their first Heineken Cup final in 13 years, is being replaced by New Zealander Mark Anscombe next season; it was announced in February that he was to be reassigned to the Academy.

However, the Irish Independent understands that nothing has been made official and McLaughlin has yet to put pen to paper, while Ulster insiders claim that his proposed new role has not been clearly defined.

The 54-year-old, who was not given the opportunity by Ulster's hierarchy to speak about his three-year tenure at yesterday's press conference, just as he was pulled out of interviews on the run-up to the final, received whole-hearted praise from his captain Johann Muller after the loss to Leinster.

"I have a huge amount of time for Brian," said Muller. "It was very emotional and that's because of the huge respect that everyone in the squad has for him and the passion he has shown for each individual and as a team. We now must build on what we have learned and improved over the last couple of years," he added.

Meanwhile, Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson has conceded that he expects coach Joe Schmidt to return to New Zealand at some stage but hopes to extend the head coach's stay with the province beyond the end of next season when his contract expires.

After leading Leinster to back-to-back European titles, Schmidt is now being touted as one of the best coaches in the world with calls for him to take over the Auckland Blues.

"Joe has done a wonderful job. It wouldn't be a secret that we would like him to stay a bit longer," said Dawson.

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