Declan Kidney set for shock return to rugby with Les Kiss at London Irish

Declan Kidney and (inset) Les Kiss

Declan Kidney. Photo: Sportsfile

thumbnail: Declan Kidney and (inset) Les Kiss
thumbnail: Declan Kidney. Photo: Sportsfile
Gavin Mairs Telegraph Media Group Limited

Declan Kidney is to make a shock return to rugby as part of a major overhaul at London Irish.

The man who led Ireland to the 2009 Grand Slam and Munster to two Heineken Cups is set to team up with his former assistant Les Kiss at the Premiership strugglers next season with an announcement on their appointment due next week.

It is not yet clear how the appointments affect the position of Nick Kennedy, the club's director of rugby, who remains contracted to the club.

However, it is understood that Brendan Venter, the former London Irish player-coach and Saracens director of rugby who was hired in 2016 as technical director, will leave the club as they look to turn their fortunes around.

Kidney and Kiss, who left his position with Ulster in January after three years, are expected to be introduced to the London Irish players next week.

Although the club's fate is all but sealed for this season, with relegation to the Championship expected after just two wins in the English top-flight this season, the recruitment of two coaches with such distinguished pedigrees suggests the London Irish board are determined to ensure a swift return to the top flight.

Kidney has not worked in rugby since leaving the Ireland job in 2013, working as the director of sport and physical activity at UCC.

He enjoyed huge success with Munster before coaching Ireland between 2008 to 2013. He brought Kiss into his national set-up as a defence coach in 2009 and the Australian was credited with introducing the "choke tackle" that was a key feature of the side's Grand Slam.

Kidney, who was named World Coach of the Year in 2009, was first linked with a move to London Irish in 2014.

The fact that he has not been involved in front-line professional coaching since 2013 may raise some eyebrows, but Irish believe the 58-year-old has the credentials and coaching nous alongside Kiss to rebuild a squad capable of becoming competitive.

Meanwhile, Joe Schmidt today looks set to recall Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson at the expense of Andrew Porter and Devin Toner, while Garry Ringrose will come in for the injured Chris Farrell in the centre. Scotland have made one enforced change with Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn replacing injured winger Tommy Seymour.

© Daily Telegraph, London