SIX MONTHS after advertising the position in the wake of Ireland's traumatic defeat to England at Twickenham, the IRFU have yet to appoint a scrum guru to fix the country's front-row problems.
The newly created position of 'high performance scrum coach' was posted by the union on March 20, but the vacancy has yet to be filled despite the identification of the area as a major issue by the union.
Ireland's long-term over-reliance on a small number of prop forwards has long been seen as a major weakness in the professional game and the extent of the difficulty was laid bare for all to see when the pack were obliterated after Mike Ross went off injured as Ireland lost 30-9 to England in their final Six Nations game.
There are seven foreign props playing for Irish provinces and last weekend Ulster, Connacht and Munster all fielded non-Irish-qualified tight-heads, with Leinster's Ross the only home-grown No 3. The position of high performance scrum coach was designed to remedy that by implementing and overseeing the union's long-term plan for the development of props nationally.
Speaking in March, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne admitted that the union were already behind schedule in implementing the plan: "Appointing a national scrummaging coach is arguably something that we should have done before this."
It had been reported that former Italy prop and Scotland scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta would be handed the role, but it is believed that he wanted the job on a consultancy basis while the IRFU wanted a full-time operator.
The process has been further complicated by the fact that the union has yet to replace high performance manager Allen Clarke, who moved to Ulster's Academy at the end of last season. The national scrum coach was intended to report to the high performance manager, but neither job has been filled.