FORMER LEINSTER HEAD coach Matt O’Connor is returning to Leicester Tigers, with the Premiership club announcing his appointment this evening.
The Australian won three Premiership titles in his previous spell at Welford Road and will begin his new role in April after recently being assistant coach with the Tonga national team.
O’Connor left Leicester for Leinster in 2013 and despite winning the Guinness Pro12 with the eastern province in his first season, the 46-year-old was sacked two years into a three-year deal.
He has since held roles with the Queensland Reds and Tonga but now returns to Europe where he will take over from interim head coach Aaron Mauger before the end of the current season.
Former New Zealand star centre Mauger stepped up from the head coach position — which he had assumed when O’Connor left in 2013 — after long-serving director of rugby Richard Cockerill was sacked in January.
“We are delighted that Matt O’Connor has accepted an offer to return to Welford Road,” Leicester club chairman, Peter Tom, said in a statement.
“The club has conducted an exhaustive search to find who we feel is the right person to take the team forward and this brought up the names of a number of potentially very good coaches. One of the most significant factors in our deliberations was experience of the Premiership and what it takes to win the competition.
“Matt has that experience as head coach during a successful period which brought three league titles, an Anglo-Welsh Cup and the club’s most recent appearance in the European Cup Final. The team also topped the try-scoring figures in the Premiership four times in that five-year period with Matt in charge of the attack.”
O’Connor previously spent four hugely-successful seasons with Leicester, during which he won the Premiership title in 2009, 2010 and 2013 as well as the 2012 Anglo-Welsh Cup.
The timing of the appointment is peculiar, with the Tigers currently fighting for a place in the Premiership semi-finals while they also ended their four-year trophy drought yesterday with victory in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final over Exeter.
Tongan back Telusa Veainu tweeted the following shortly after the club announced the appointment:
Mauger will leave Leicester after this weekend’s game against Northampton Saints.
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