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Ex-Ireland hooker Clarke appointed Ospreys head coach on three-year deal

The former Ulster forwards coach has made a big impact on the Welsh region.

FORMER IRELAND AND Ulster hooker Allen Clarke has been confirmed as the Ospreys’ head coach on a three-year deal.

Clarke joined the Welsh region as forwards coach last summer but has been the interim boss of the senior team since January, when previous head coach Steve Tandy departed.

The Guinness Pro14 club announced in January that they would undertake a search for a ”world-class” coach to replace Tandy and they have now confirmed that Clarke will retain his role on a permanent basis as they look to rebuild.

Allen Clarke Clarke has got the top job at the Ospreys. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Clarke helped Ulster to the 1999 Heineken Cup as a player and was capped eight times by Ireland, as well as playing for the Northampton Saints.

He moved into coaching with Ulster’s academy before working as Mark McCall’s assistant coach when they guided the province to their first-ever Celtic League title in 2006.

McCall subsequently moved into an IRFU position which involved overseeing the union’s age-grade programmes, before returning to the Ulster academy in 2012, while also coaching the province’s senior side’s scrum.

He was promoted to forwards coach in 2014, but left along with head coach Neil Doak last summer as then Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss made changes to his coaching team.

Clarke’s move to the Ospreys couldn’t have worked out better as he now gets set to guide the club over the course of the next three years.

“When I came to the Ospreys, just 10 months ago, I didn’t foresee this situation arising,” said Clarke. “However, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being head coach over the last three months.

“The support I’ve received from all areas, from the player group, fellow coaches and colleagues behind the scenes and from the Board, together with that of the supporters has been fantastic. As such, I feel both humbled and honoured by the appointment.

“There is a strong ambition at the region which matches my own, that is, to re-establish the Ospreys at the top level, initially in the Guinness Pro14 and then Europe.

“I’m highly motivated by the challenge and look forward to working with the coaching and management team to create an environment that provides individuals with the opportunity to flourish and for us, as a team, to realise our ambitions playing a brand of rugby that enthuses players and supporters alike.”

Rory Best and Allen Clarke Clarke with Ulster's Rory Best during his time with the province. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Meanwhile, the Ospreys’ managing director, Andrew Millward, explained the thinking behind appointing Clarke permanently.

“When we began the search for a new head coach we said we were looking for someone who we considered to be ‘world class’,” said Millward.

“For us, that meant we wanted someone able to get the best out of the assets available to them, someone with experience of creating a culture, an environment, who had the respect of players and his coaching peers alike.

“We wanted someone with a technical and tactical appreciation of the game, good man management and who felt a true part of the journey.

“Over the last three months we’ve worked closely with the WRU to identify a coach who met the ‘world class’ criteria and have spoken to a number of high-quality individuals from all corners of the rugby world, who were interested in being part of the Ospreys and who presented a strong case.

“In Allen, we strongly believe we have that person, already working within the organisation.

“Vastly experienced, he has a passion for, and proven track record in, developing talent, and he has enjoyed success as both a player and a coach, operating at club and international level.

“The impact he has made in a short time in his role as Forwards Coach is unquestionable. He has used the last three months to showcase both his ability and rugby philosophy further and has the full backing of the playing squad.

“We are delighted to have him as our new head coach and will be looking to strengthen his support team following this appointment.”

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Murray Kinsella

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