Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis looks at the leading contenders to replace Declan Kidney as Ireland head coach.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 03/04/13 11:40am
Kidney, the former Munster boss, took over the role in July 2008 and led Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 1948 just six months later.
However he failed to build on that early success, with Ireland eliminated at the quarter-final stages of the World Cup in 2011 and then suffering a dreadful Six Nations campaign this year - their worst since they picked up the Wooden Spoon in 1998.
That has ultimately seen him pay the price, with the race now on to replace him...
The 42-year-old would be a popular choice to replace Kidney but the IRFU would have to put a very tempting offer on the table to lure him away from Harlequins. O'Shea, who won 35 caps for Ireland between 1993 and 2000, has worked wonders during his time at the Stoop. Since taking over the reins in March 2010, O'Shea has turned Quins into a class outfit. They have won the Amlin Challenge Cup and a maiden Aviva Premiership title under his guidance, while this season they have lifted the LV= Cup and are challenging for the Heineken Cup and domestic honours. O'Shea, an astute tactician, previously played for and coached London Irish before becoming the RFU's director of national academies and then working with the English Institute of Sport.
If, as the saying goes, 'possession is nine-tenths of the law', then Kiss is best-placed to succeed Kidney. The former rugby league international will take over control of the side on an interim basis for June's tour to North America. The 48-year-old Australian has worked as Kidney's assistant since 2008, focusing on the defence. Kiss has been credited for Ireland's successful tactic of the 'choke tackle' however his associations with the side's failings under Kidney could count against him. Kiss made a successful switch from the 13-a-side code in 2001 to work with South Africa's defence, while he went on to assist the Waratahs, Australia Under-21s and Australia A. The former North Sydney Bears winger also had a spell as head coach of the London Broncos.
Timing can be everything when the top jobs come around and McKenzie's could be spot on. The vastly experienced Australian will be available at just the right time to take over the reins having confirmed he will step down as the top man at the Reds at the end of the current Super Rugby campaign in order to pursue an international coaching role. Understandably, McKenzie's sights will have been set on the Wallabies job - with current head coach Robbie Deans remaining under pressure - however the position with Ireland could well tempt him back to Europe. The 47-year-old has an impressive CV, having been assistant coach with Australia before a successful stint at the Waratahs. He worked with Stade Francais before returning to guide the Reds to the Super Rugby crown. His playing career saw him win 51 caps and win the World Cup in 1991.
Another Irishman who has made his mark on the Premiership, McCall continues to impress at the helm of Saracens. McCall was capped 13 times by Ireland between 1992 and 1998 and earned his coaching spurs in his homeland. The 45-year-old looked after Ireland Under-21s and Ireland A during his time at Ulster. Initially an assistant coach with the Ravenhill club, McCall was named head coach in 2004. He moved to France three years later to further his development with Castres before he teamed up with Saracens in 2009. McCall was promoted from head coach to director of rugby in January 2011 and guided the side to their maiden Premiership title. Sarries, though, have come in for some criticism for their brand of rugby, with the side's success built on a strong defensive foundation.
Ruddock would appear to fit the bill to replace Kidney having previously coached at international level, while he is already working within the Ireland set-up. Ruddock currently coaches the Under-20s as well as domestic side Lansdowne. He guided the U20s to fifth at the IRB Junior World Championship and third in the Six Nations, while he helped Lansdowne to their first Ulster Bank League title. However he is better known for his spell in charge of Wales having led them to their first Grand Slam in 27 years in 2005. And although he left in acrimonious circumstances the following year, his coaching CV is fairly extensive, with stints at Swansea, Leinster, Ebbw Vale, the Dragons and Worcester Warriors.
The New Zealander is the best placed of the provincial bosses to apply for the job after guiding Leinster to back-to-back Heineken Cup titles. Schmidt also guided the side to the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 in his first two years as well, although Munster and then the Ospreys denied them an historic double. Schmidt replaced Michael Cheika at the helm for the 2010/11 season, having previously been the assistant to Vern Cotter at Clermont. Prior to moving to France, Schmidt had been head coach at ITM Cup side Bay of Plenty and assistant coach at the Blues. Despite his early success at Leinster, though, this season's campaign has been tougher with the side failing to make it out of their Heineken Cup pool for the first time since 2008.
No list of contenders for an international job would be complete without a certain Mr J White. The former South Africa boss has seemingly been linked to every job going and it is no different with the position in Ireland. Whether he can be prised away from Australia, where he is doing a fabulous job with the Brumbies, seems very unlikely though. White guided the Sringboks Under-21s to World Championship glory in 2002 before being appointed head coach of the senior side two years later. He galvanised the side, leading them to the Tri-Nations title in his first season but it is his World Cup triumph in 2007 that shines brightest among his many achievements. Since leaving the Boks in the aftermath of that success, White worked in various consultancy roles at clubs around the world before joining the Brumbies.