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Northampton appoint ex-Munster boss Gaffney following sacking of Mallinder

The 70-year-old Australian will oversee affairs at Franklin’s Gardens until the end of the season.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS HAVE turned to a former Munster, Leinster and Ireland coach in a bid to improve their fortunes.

Saints, who are 10th in the Aviva Premiership after winning just four of their 11 games, today announced the appointment of Alan Gaffney until the end of the season.

While Gaffney will be referred to as Northampton’s technical coaching consultant, the club say the 70-year-old “will oversee the existing coaching team, comprising acting head coach Alan Dickens, forwards coach Dorian West, Phil Dowson who will now oversee defence, and assistant coach Mark Hopley.”

The English club, who have lost their last six games in all competitions, sacked Jim Mallinder earlier this month after he spent over 10 years working as their director of rugby.

“We are delighted to have recruited Alan as our technical coaching consultant until the end of the season. Alan is hugely experienced and admired throughout the game for being a forward-thinking, innovative rugby coach,” said Northampton Saints CEO Mark Darbon.

“His CV speaks for itself; he has been successful with some of the best teams in the world – including winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and Heineken Cup – and has a clear understanding of how to set-up an effective all-around rugby team. He also has a proven track record of developing some of the world’s best coaches and players.

“Alan will take on responsibility for the rugby department and will lead the existing coaching group made up of Alan Dickens, Dorian West, Mark Hopley and Phil Dowson.

“In parallel, the Board will continue to focus on the recruitment of a permanent director of rugby to be in place for the start of the 2018/19 season. As I have said previously, there has been a great deal of interest in this vacancy and we hope to be able to announce this appointment in the coming months.”

Having served as assistant coach for NSW Waratahs in his native Australia, Gaffney moved to Ireland in 2000 to work as backs coach with Leinster. He then had a three-year spell as Munster head coach (2002 to 2005).

Gaffney went on to work as assistant coach for the Wallabies and director of rugby at Saracens, before returning to his role as backs coach at Leinster, helping the province to win the Heineken Cup in 2009. He also worked under Declan Kidney as backs coach for the Ireland side that won the Six Nations Grand Slam a couple of months earlier.

Gaffney, who will begin his new role at Northampton on New Year’s Day, has most recently been working as a coach for Rugby Australia’s National Elite Programmes.

He said: “I am really excited about the challenge ahead. Any coach would jump at the chance to work with the calibre of players Saints have. The squad have shown what they’re capable of earlier in the season but, for whatever reason, they have not been able to perform at that level consistently.

“I’m looking forward to working with Alan Dickens, Dorian West, Mark Hopley, Phil Dowson and the rest of the backroom staff from the start of the new year.”

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Paul Dollery

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