Struggling Biarritz Olympique swoop for Eddie O'Sullivan
Former Ireland boss handed two-year deal to revive French side's fortunes
Eddie O'Sullivan has become the new head coach of struggling French rugby giants Biarritz Olympique.
The Triple Crown-winning former Ireland boss has been handed a two-year contract by the Basque club to revive their fortunes after this season's relegation from the Top 14 ended an unbroken run of 18 years in the top tier of French rugby.
Biarritz president, the legendary full-back Serge Blanco, believes that O'Sullivan's technical ability can be the ingredient to propel the revival of a club that were national champions as recently as 2006 and finished runners-up in the Heineken Cups of 2006 (to Munster) and 2010 (to Toulouse). Just two years ago, they beat Toulon in the European Challenge Cup final.
The appointment, thus, rules him out of contention for the role of backs coach to Anthony Foley at Munster, a position he is known to have been under consideration for in recent weeks.
O'Sullivan, who led Ireland to three Triple Crowns and was a late Vincent Clerc try at Croke Park away from a probable Grand Slam in '07, has been concentrating largely on media work since finishing a second stint as US head coach at the 2011 World Cup.
He becomes the first non-Frenchman to take charge at Biarritz, where his immediate priority is sure to be the quickest possible promotion out of the second tier, Pro D2.
Munster, it is understood, did conduct a number of interviews with O'Sullivan in recent weeks, but were aware that he was also in discussion with a second party.
His appointment brings to an end an inexplicably long exile from the professional game for a man considered one of the world's most technically gifted coaches.
It remains to be seen what changes will be made to the Biarritz playing squad, but there are rumours that last season's captain – the iconic French No 8, Imanol Harinordoquy – is keen to play on. Another key figure under O'Sullivan should be renowned French scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili.
It is believed that O'Sullivan's two assistants will be French and he will thus prioritise learning the language quickly, in the way that Bernard Jackman has managed so impressively at Grenoble. Biarritz ended the season more than 20 points adrift of second-from-bottom Perpignan at the foot of the Top 14.
Meanwhile, former Cork Con boss Brian Walsh is now favourite to become Munster's new backs coach.