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Connacht's Carolan appointed Ireland U20s coach after Ruddock steps down

The Grand Slam-winning Welshman plans to focus his full attention on his job with Lansdowne.

Ruddock has been in charge for the past four seasons.
Ruddock has been in charge for the past four seasons.
Image: CameraSport/Chris Vaughan/INPHO

MIKE RUDDOCK HAS stepped down from his role as Ireland Under-20 head coach, with Connacht’s Nigel Carolan replacing him.

Welshman Ruddock has been in charge of the squad for the past four seasons, guiding them to a best-ever fourth place finish at the 2014 Junior World Championship in New Zealand.

The 2005 Grand Slam winner has indicated that he hopes to put more time into his head coaching role at Lansdowne FC in the Ulster Bank League, with a second league title to add to 2013’s success in his sights.

Carolan takes over the Ireland U20s as a result, although he will continue his role as Connacht’s academy manager alongside the new responsibility.

The former Connacht player has been in charge of the academy in Galway since 2004, overseeing the development of players like Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion, Darragh Leader and Jack Carty in recent years.

Carolan has been involved with Ireland’s U20 side previously, acting as an assistant coach from 2008 until 2010.

Nigel Carolan Carolan has a proven track record of improving young players. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking about his decision to step away from the Ireland U20s, Ruddock said:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Ireland U20s and it has been very rewarding. In particular our performances on the world stage have been extremely competitive and I am pleased to be able to hand over the reins knowing that the Ireland U20 team is now a top four world-ranked nation.

“Around 10 players return with international experience at U20 level for the season ahead and so the team is well placed to be successful in the next U20 Six Nations and Junior World Championship tournaments.

It has been difficult trying to juggle the ever-increasing demands of the age-grade programme whilst coaching Lansdowne FC in the Ulster Bank League, and now it’s time to concentrate on trying to add another league title to the one we won in 2013.”

Meanwhile, the IRFU’s Performance Director, David Nucifora, thanked Ruddock for his service and welcomed Carolan into his new role. The Connacht man himself expressed his excitement at taking over.

“It is an exciting opportunity to be working with the top U20 talent from the four provinces,” Carolan told the IRFU.

“I am looking forward to working closely with the other provincial academy managers to maximise the potential of the talent at our disposal.”

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Murray Kinsella

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