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Saturday 16 December 2017

Kirwan keen on Ulster's top job

FORMER All Black John Kirwan last night revealed he would be interested in becoming Ulster's new coach when the post is vacated by Brian McLaughlin in the summer.

Kirwan admitted his interest in the job, but he did allude to the "politics" coming out of the province after an embarrassing week for the former Heineken Cup champions.

"I love watching the Six Nations. I'm looking for a new coaching role and waiting for the right one," Kirwan said.

"I'd love to stay in Europe and with a club that has aspirations to win. All the Irish clubs are looking to win the Heineken Cup. I'd look at any offers."

McLaughlin, who is now set to take over the Ulster Academy, revealed yesterday that he had been told before Christmas that his job was under threat, and insisted that "his coaching staff is more than good enough to win the Heineken Cup".



Turmoil

Despite the off-field turmoil, Kirwan disclosed his Ulster interest, though he's not one of the people who have already been contacted by Ulster's director of operations, David Humphreys.

"There's a bit of politics coming out of Ulster, but I haven't had any contact from anyone there," Kirwan said.

"I'm really looking for a side that wants to go places. If Ulster are keen on winning the Heineken Cup or the PRO12 League, I'd be keen to get involved."

Earlier in Belfast, McLaughlin looked a forlorn soul as he listened to his boss trying to explain why he is being ditched as Ulster's head coach at the end of the season, despite the lofty heights his charges have reached during his tenure.

In what was a frosty press conference, Humphreys explained why the province were planning to move forward without McLaughlin, who was squirming in his seat beside him.

Humphreys spoke of the high expectations at Ravenhill and why McLaughlin will now be the man to oversee the academy.

"Brian and myself sat down three years ago and talked about him taking over the Ulster coaching position," said Humphreys.

"Ulster were in a precarious position and we had views on the way we were going to address our problems. Two and half years later, we have taken some big strides. Our performances over the last month showed that we have closed the gap between ourselves and Leinster and Munster.

"As part of our long-term strategy, we will be changing our head coach for next year, with Brian moving to take up a post at the Ulster Academy.

"The reason for this is, firstly, when you see the position we are in, and you look at the situation within the IRFU, where there is an increasing emphasis placed on young, indigenous Irish players coming through our system, it now shows the importance of our academy.

"We know that if we are going to fill an 18,000-capacity stadium at Ravenhill, we have got to have players coming through who are not just competing with Leinster and Munster, but are beating them on a regular basis and achieving a seat at the top table in Europe.



Perfect

"We believe that Brian, with his experience at schools level and within the Irish and Ulster coaching set-up, is the perfect man to go in and work in our academy to drive that forward."

McLaughlin, who sat unmoved, then explained his position. "I'm grateful to Ulster Rugby for offering me the opportunity of a safety net within the organisation after I finish my role as head coach," he said through what looked like clenched teeth.

"I'm a little bit disappointed in that I wasn't expecting to use the safety net so quickly. From that point of view, yes, I'm disappointed, but I have the rest of the season to consider and I still see a huge challenge ahead in both competitions.

"I feel that I haven't finished the job yet. I was hoping to finish this season with great success and then push on."

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