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Former All Black Deans emerges as early front-runner for Leinster job

The ex-Australia coach is understood to be interested in relocating to Europe.

NEW ZEALANDER ROBBIE Deans has emerged as the early front-runner to succeed Matt O’Connor as head coach of Leinster.

Robbie Deans Deans is currently with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

O’Connor’s departure with a year left to run on his contract was confirmed by the province this morning, leaving Leinster to fill the position before the beginning of the 2015/16 season.

Deans is currently working with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, whom he helped to the 2014/15 Top League title, but The42 understands that the former All Black has been exploring the possibility of a move to Europe.

A number of French clubs are believed to have studied Deans’ CV in recent months, while it appears that he would be available were Leinster to make an offer to bring him to Ireland.

Deans is in charge of the Barbarians side that will visit these shores next week to take on Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in a non-capped clash at Thomond Park. The Kiwi is sure to field repeated questions about his interest in the Leinster position from the moment he lands.

A fullback who was capped five times by New Zealand during his playing career, Deans enjoyed a period of major success with the Crusaders in Super Rugby from 2000 until 2008, winning five titles in that time.

He worked as an assistant coach with the New Zealand national team during the early years of his stint with the Crusaders too, before eventually going on to take the Australia head coaching job in 2008.

Deans’ time with the Wallabies began strongly and he guided them to the 2011 Tri-Nations title, but the final years of his reign were controversial. Rumours of a bad atmosphere within the squad and discontent in the ARU led to Deans resigning from the job in 2013 following defeat in the Test series against Warren Gatland’s Lions.

Nonetheless, Deans retains a reputation as an excellent coach with an attacking philosophy on the game, with his talented Crusaders team in particular having played some highly-attractive rugby.

Jono Gibbes Gibbes left Leinster as recently as last summer. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Deans has been linked with a number of other big jobs since 2013, including the Clermont position when Vern Cotter left, but has instead worked in Japan since 2014, as well as travelling the world to share his coaching expertise elsewhere.

Bernard Jackman is another name that has been linked with the vacant Leinster position, although it’s understood the former Ireland hooker is committed to the project at Grenoble, to whom he is contracted until 2017.

Jono Gibbes would be a popular choice for Leinster, having previously won three Heineken Cups with the province in his time as forwards coach. The presence of Leo Cullen in that role now would potentially mean an overlapping of strengths in the Leinster coaching team, but Gibbes is extremely respected within Leinster.

Should Leinster look to go down the route of appointing a longer-established head coach, Australian Ewen McKenzie is also an interesting possibility. A Super Rugby winner with the Reds in 2011, his tenure in charge of the Wallabies also ended infamously.

McKenzie is a firm believer in playing a style of rugby that excites supporters, meaning he would likely prove popular with Leinster’s faithful.

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Murray Kinsella

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