LEINSTER EXPECT TO have their new coach in place in the coming days, with current Leicester Tigers boss Matt O’Connor now the runaway favourite to replace Joe Schmidt.
O’Connor was in Ireland last week and met with senior players as Leinster got a head-start on the recruitment process ahead of Schmidt’s promotion to the national job.
“There’s nothing further set in stone yet,” team manager Guy Easterby said this afternoon.
“We’ve obviously met Matt but we certainly haven’t concluded any deals with him. I’ve learned over the years that you need to make sure that you’ve dotted the is and crossed the ts before anything is announced, so hopefully that will be done in the next few days.”
Schmidt was officially confirmed as Ireland boss on Monday after weeks of speculation and almost unanimous popular endorsement that he be the man to replace Declan Kidney.
It means that the Kiwi cuts short the final year of his contract, forcing Leinster to bring forward their head-hunt for a new man.
“We’ve had a plan in place for probably 14 months down the line that we’ve had to accelerate,” Easterby said, “but there are guys on the list for 14 months’ time that we’ve been able to make contact with and have conversations with as the job has come up 12 months early.
I think it’s a credit to the place, to the squad, to the organisation that it’s an attractive job for coaches. We’re the number one-ranked team in Europe at the moment and it’s something that we’re desperate to continue, to continue to move forward.
I think the coaches that we’ve spoken to are pleased that they’ve been approached about the job and it’s just about us now making the right decision in terms of who we go for.
With Leicester not involved in either European competition, O’Connor had a lighter workload last week and was able to fit in a trip to Ireland to meet his prospective employers. The former Australian international, who won his only senior cap against Ireland, has been head coach at Welford Road since the summer of 2010.
“That was a process we went through as well with Joe and other candidates last time before we appointed Joe. That’s part of our protocol in terms of identifying the right candidate and the senior players will certainly be consulted on that as part of the process.”
– Reporting by Patrick McCarry