Saturday 21 July 2018

Former Munster coach joins Northampton until the end of the season

Former Munster coach Alan Gaffney Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Former Munster coach Alan Gaffney Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Jack de Menezes

Former Munster head coach Alan Gaffney has been named technical coaching consultant at Northampton Saints until the end of the season, with the search for a permanent director of rugby ongoing.

The experienced Australian replaces Jim Mallinder, who was sacked two-and-a-half weeks ago following a decade with the Premiership club, and is tasked with lifting Saints back up the table after dropping to 10th after a run of six consecutive league defeats.

Northampton have also lost all four of their European Champions Cup matches this season to Clermont Auvergne, Saracens and the double-header with the Ospreys, but 70-year-old Gaffney's arrival at Franklin's Gardens will at least bring clarity to the short-term future of the club and help try to salvage a season that is rapidly unravelling.

Gaffney will take charge of the side from New Year's Day, after this weekend's 'Big Game' clash with Harlequins at Twickenham, and his first match in charge will come against Gloucester on Saturday 6 January.

"I am really excited about the challenge ahead," said Gaffney, who is the current National Elite Programmes Coach with Rugby Australia.

"Any coach would jump at the chance to work with the calibre of players Saints have. The squad have shown what they're capable of earlier in the season but, for whatever reason, they have not been able to perform at that level consistently."

As part of the short-term appointment, Gaffney will work with Mallinder's former coaching staff, which sees Alan Dickens return to his role as attack coach alongside forwards coach Dorian West and defence coach Phil Dowson.

Having learned his trade as a player at the Sydney-based club Randwick – which went on to produce both England head coach Eddie Jones and Australia's Michael Cheika – Gaffney earned success in both hemispheres, having cut his teeth with the New South Wales Waratahs before moving to Ireland to work with firstly Leinster as back's coach and then Munster, where he clinched back-to-back Celtic League titles.

He returned to Australia to work as assistant coach to Jones with the national team in 2005 before taking charge of Saracens between 2006 and 2008 where he led the club to the Premiership play-offs for the first time as well as their first European semi-final in 2007. Gaffney left Saracens to join the Irish set-up as backs coach under Declan Kidney as well as return to Leinster, and helped mastermind the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam and Leinster's European Cup success in the same year.

Gaffney eventually left Ireland in 2011 to return to the Waratahs as assistant coach, before being named in his current role with Rugby Australia in 2013, and Saints will look to delve into his vast experience in a bid to drag themselves out of the black hole that they have slipped into over the last four months.

We are delighted to have recruited Alan as our technical coaching consultant until the end of the season," said Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon.

"Alan is hugely experienced and admired throughout the game for being a forward thinking, innovative rugby coach. His CV speaks for itself; he has been successful with some of the best teams in the world – including winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and Heineken Cup – and has a clear understanding of how to set-up an effective all-around rugby team. He also has a proven track record of developing some of the world's best coaches and players.

"Alan will take on responsibility for the rugby department and will lead the existing coaching group made up of Alan Dickens, Dorian West, Mark Hopley and Phil Dowson.

"In parallel, the Board will continue to focus on the recruitment of a permanent Director of Rugby to be in place for the start of the 2018/19 season. As I have said previously, there has been a great deal of interest in this vacancy and we hope to be able to announce this appointment in the coming months."

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