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One for the Leinster shortlist? All Blacks legend Kirwan resigns as Blues coach

Former Italy and Japan coach has previously been linked to both Ulster and Munster.

John Kirwan: led the Blues to their worst-ever Super Rugby season.
John Kirwan: led the Blues to their worst-ever Super Rugby season.
Image: Junji Kurokawa

ALL BLACKS LEGEND John Kirwan has stepped down as head coach of Super Rugby side Auckland Blues.

Kirwan has been in the role for the past three years, but announced that he would not seek to extend his stay after presiding over the franchise’s worst-ever season.

The former Italy and Japan coach had submitted a proposal to the board aimed at continuing his involvement but later reconsidered.

The Blues finished last in Super Rugby’s New Zealand conference this season and second bottom overall with just three wins to their name.

“People who know me well know that I do not walk away from a challenge and that was what was driving me because I know what has been set-up in terms of organisational structure in the last two years,” Kirwan said.

However I always said that if I didn’t bring about the results that the players, the club and the fans wanted, then I would step aside.

Kirwan, 50, made no comment about his next move during Friday’s announcement. As recently as 2012, the World Cup-winning All Black indicated that he would be interested in taking over at both Ulster and Munster, and he could again be tempted by a move to Ireland and the vacant Leinster post.

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It looks increasingly likely that Leo Cullen will lead the province into the new season, with Leinster bosses taken aback by the lack of high-profile candidates interested in succeeding Matt O’Connor.

Meanwhile former All-Blacks centre Tana Umaga is widely tipped as Kirwan’s most likely successor in Auckland.

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