George Skivington named Gloucester head coach: London Irish 'considering options' after departure of forwards coach
Gloucester reject claims of improper conduct and say they are 'surprised and disappointed'
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 28/06/20 4:05pm
London Irish say they received no approach from Gloucester to speak to their forwards coach George Skivington and are considering their options.
Gloucester announced the appointment of Exiles forwards coach Skivington as their new head coach on Saturday, with the 37-year-old due to begin his new role on July 3.
But London Irish say Skivington, who became their forwards coach after he retired from playing in 2016, remains under contract until June 2021 and believe Gloucester have breached Premiership Rugby protocols by not approaching the club in writing to enquire about his availability.
Speaking on Saturday, Irish chief executive Brian Facer said: "To say we are disappointed with Gloucester's announcement is an understatement.
"George is well liked and respected at Hazelwood, and it is understandable that we would not want to lose him, especially so close to the resumption of play after the lockdown.
"We also know that he is an ambitious young man who would relish the opportunity of being the head coach of a club someday.
"However, the protocols are clear that a club must be approached in writing when there are more than six months remaining on the relevant contract, regardless of whether it is a player or coach.
"George is under contract with London Irish until June 2021 and has not served us with the required notice period, nor have the terms of his contract been breached.
"More importantly, at no point have we received any proactive communication whatsoever from Gloucester.
"We therefore believe that Gloucester have breached the Premiership Rugby Code of Conduct regarding inducement and approaches to a contracted player, member of coaching staff and other contracted person.
"This is a most serious issue so, accordingly, we are reserving our rights to consider all our options under the Premiership Rugby governance protocols and other avenues of redress."
Gloucester have dismissed claims of improper conduct, stating they advertised the role "in the usual way" and understood "stand-out candidate" Skivington was not restricted contractually from joining them.
Released on Sunday, Gloucester's statement read: "In light of the comments made in that (London Irish's) statement, Gloucester Rugby wishes to clarify the position.
"1. Gloucester Rugby openly advertised its Head Coach role in the usual way. George Skivington ("GS") was the stand out candidate following that process.
"2. Gloucester Rugby understood that GS was not restricted contractually from joining the club. Gloucester Rugby, nevertheless, directly and straightforwardly sought clarification of London Irish's position. That clarification has not been forthcoming.
"3. Gloucester Rugby is therefore surprised and disappointed by both the contents of statement from London Irish, and the forum in which it was released, not least in view of the proactive efforts made by Gloucester Rugby during the course of this week.
"4. Gloucester Rugby will continue to seek to engage with London Irish, through the appropriate channels. Gloucester Rugby urges London Irish to do the same.
"Gloucester Rugby will make no further comment."
Skivington impressed by Gloucester vision
Former Wasps and Leicester Tigers lock Skivington was announced as the successor to Johan Ackermann, who stood down as Gloucester head coach last month to take a coaching role at Japanese Top League side NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes.
Skivington said: "I've been very impressed with everyone I've met at the club so far, and the vision they have for the club.
"What I particularly liked was how far-reaching the vision is, building from the academy, through the first team, and across the whole club. I can't wait to play my part in it.
"When I was playing, Gloucester was one of a couple of clubs that you never fancied visiting. We want to bring that feeling back to Kingsholm."
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Gloucester fly-half Danny Cipriani voiced his approval of Skivington's appointment, tweeting: "This is the most exciting announcement of a head coach I've seen in rugby, foreword (sic) thinking.
"The type of man you build a club around. Very grateful I'll get to play out my last years under him."
Gloucester are in the process of overhauling their hierarchy, with David Humphreys stepping aside as the club's director of rugby.
They will not appoint a replacement, with Alex Brown placed in charge of recruitment after being promoted to the position of chief operating officer.
"I've had a look at the playing squad, and there are some really great players in there," said Skivington.
"It doesn't need rebuilding, but there are obviously one or two areas that need some work.
"When Gloucester has been successful it's always been built on having a formidable pack. We need make sure we have a pack that has the kind of reputation that it used to have.
"When we do that, with the skill and pace of the backs we have at the club, we're going to start getting the results we want again."