Saturday 20 October 2018

Easterby answers Ulster call

Simon Easterby has taking on an interim role until their new Ulster head coach arrives. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Simon Easterby has taking on an interim role until their new Ulster head coach arrives. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ulster have still not given up hope of having Dan McFarland in situ before January, despite Simon Easterby taking on an interim role until their new head coach arrives.

The Scottish Rugby Union are adamant, however, that McFarland will remain with them until January, at which point his contractual notice period will have been served.

It is another messy coaching transition for Ulster, who had hoped that their new boss would arrive in time for pre-season, which began last week.

Instead, it looks increasingly likely that the SRU will continue to stand firm over releasing McFarland from his contract, even though his successor Danny Wilson has already been appointed.

The Irish Independent understands that this contingency plan was in place before McFarland encountered issues with a possible early release by Scotland.

While a member of Ireland's coaching staff was always likely to be drafted in to help the club if the current situation arose, it was widely believed that it would be Andy Farrell, and not Easterby. Farrell undertook similar support roles on two separate occasions with Munster.

Easterby, Ireland's forwards guru, who has previous head coach experience with the Scarlets, will continue in his current role for the November series as his international duties are not affected by his new role with Ulster.

Appointing interim coaches is nothing new for Ulster. Les Kiss was appointed interim director of rugby in 2014 before taking over on a permanent basis, while Neil Doak was interim Ulster coach after Mark Anscombe departed.

Easterby will link up with Ulster this week, which means that he could be in Belfast for the next six months as he provides support for a relatively inexperienced coaching team of former Scarlets team-mate Dwayne Peel (backs), Aaron Dundon (scrum), Jared Payne (defence), Daniel Soper (skills) and Niall Malone (analyst).

The 42-year-oldhas been one of the key members of Joe Schmidt's backroom staff since replacing John Plumtree in 2014.

Irish Independent

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