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IRFU will seek outside professional help to replace Grand Slam winner Declan Kidney

THE IRFU will seek outside professional help in their global search for a head coach to replace Declan Kidney after confirming that it will not offer the 2009 Grand Slam winner a new contract.

The 53-year-old Corkman, who held the position for five years, had been under pressure to hold on to his job after an injury-ravaged Six Nations campaign produced Ireland's worst ever finish.

His contract was due to expire after a summer tour to the USA, but the IRFU decided to act yesterday as it begins the potentially difficult quest to find a replacement.

Australian Ewen McKenzie emerged as favourite to succeed Kidney, being installed at odds-on with some bookmakers. McKenzie is a former prop who now coaches Queensland Reds and was offered at 1/2 by Paddy Power while Les Kiss was at 13/2.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt and former Irish full-back Conor O'Shea, now head coach at English club side Harlequins, were also among the favourites at 8/1 and 9/1 respectively.

But Schmidt and O'Shea have already ruled themselves out of the running for the job.

Punters who fancy an outsider can get odds on Eddie O'Sullivan at 100/1 or Brian O'Driscoll at 80/1, and can even back George Hook at 200/1.

Kiss has been appointed interim head coach with Gert Smal and Anthony Foley his assistants. "We would like to sincerely thank Declan for his commitment to Irish rugby," said the IRFU chief executive Philip Browne, after confirming the decision reached by the National Team Review Group.

"His contribution and involvement across the spectrum of Irish rugby delivered age-group, provincial, Grand Slam and Triple Crown success, and epitomises his passion, belief and commitment.

"With a host of new and emerging talent at every level, and despite the clear challenges ahead, we are confident of securing another world-class coach."

Kidney took charge of Ireland in 2008 after enjoying huge success as coach of an Ireland U19 side, which included Brian O'Driscoll, that won a World Cup in 1998. He then helped Munster to Heineken Cup wins in 2006 and 2008.

After taking over from Eddie O'Sullivan, Kidney led Ireland to their second Grand Slam in 2009 when he was also named the IRB Coach of the Year. But a World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales in 2011 was disappointing, and Ireland repeatedly struggled to repeat the highs of his first season.

Recently, he had been widely criticised for some controversial decisions, including removing the captaincy from Brian O'Driscoll and omitting Ronan O'Gara from the squad.

Kidney is now believed to have been approached about becoming the director of sport at UCD, where a salary of around €100,000 would be a significant drop in earnings from the reported €350,000 salary with the IRFU.

Tony Ward and vincent hogan

Irish Independent