Exclusive: Joe Schmidt lines up Simon Easterby as John Plumtree's replacement
SIMON EASTERBY is in line to take over as Ireland's forwards coach as Joe Schmidt looks to replace John Plumtree, who has returned to New Zealand.
The 65-times-capped former Ireland international is understood to be close to agreeing a deal that would see him take up the role before the November Tests.
It is not known if Easterby will combine his new role with his current job as head coach of the Scarlets, but given Schmidt's other assistant Les Kiss is taking a temporary posting as director of rugby at Ulster, it is likely he will want Easterby's undivided attention as preparations for next year's World Cup intensify.
Plumtree's departure after one season came as a shock to the management team and players, as he opted to go home to take up a position with the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise.
Schmidt travelled to New Zealand after the completion of the series win over the Pumas and had been expected to recruit from his home nation, but the emergence of a candidate of Easterby's calibre appears to have persuaded him and the IRFU to look closer to home.
Easterby, whose brother Guy is Leinster's manager, has played alongside a number of Schmidt's front-liners, most notably captain Paul O'Connell, with whom he packed down on 45 occasions for Ireland and the Lions. A quality flanker, he won his final cap against England in the 2008 Six Nations and retired in 2010 to take up a coaching role with the Scarlets, where he became head coach in 2012.
Meanwhile, sacking Mark Anscombe is believed to have cost Ulster in the region of €125,000 in compensation.
The province's hierarchy came in for heavy criticism from the Kiwi's son Gareth yesterday as the Chiefs full-back reacted to his father's shock departure by tweeting: "Pretty disappointed to hear about the way the old mans (sic) been treated at @UlsterRugby, how do you expect to get success at a club when you have clowns at the top making decisions like this?"