Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Gert Smal extends Irish stay
Johannesburg - Former Springbok forwards coach Gert Smal has renewed his contract with Ireland and will stay in Dublin for a further 18 months after this year's Rugby World Cup.
The Irish Rugby Football Union confirmed on Monday that head coach Declan Kidney and his assistants - Smal, Les Kiss and Mark Tainton had all agreed on contract extensions after the World Cup.
"The current coaching team had been contracted up to the conclusion of the World Cup in October, but the decision of all four coaches to commit to Ireland will see them remain with the team until the conclusion of the 2012-13 season," a statement from the IRFU said.
"The only member of the current coaching staff that will not be continuing to work with the team after the World Cup is Alan Gaffney. Gaffney has decided to return to his native Australia after the tournament where his aim is to remain in elite rugby coaching in some capacity. No decision will be made in relation to the position of backs coach until after the Rugby World Cup."
Smal moved to Ireland after being part of South Africa's successful World Cup winning coaching team in 2007, after there were few offers for him to coach in South Africa. The forwards coach was snapped up by Ireland and immediately made an impact, galvanising the Irish forwards and strengthening their setpiece.
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: "The IRFU are delighted that Declan, Gert, Les and Mark have all agreed to their new contracts. We felt it was important to give the team continuity over the next four months and importantly after the end of the World Cup tournament in New Zealand. Apart from securing the Grand Slam in 2009, the team has made significant progress over the last two years in terms of results and the development of players in international competition. This is not only due to the ability of the players, but the standard of coaching they have received."
"The contract extension to the coaching staff allows everybody to plan ahead following the World Cup with a greater degree of certainty and to allow the team to continue to develop. The focus now for the coaches and players is firmly on the preparations for the World Cup and the tournament itself."
Ireland Head Coach Declan Kidney said: "It has been a privilege over the last three years to have been involved with the Ireland team and so I am delighted that the IRFU have offered me the opportunity to continue that work. To be able to work with the level of players and coaches that Ireland have had during that time is a chance that very few get, so it has been a wonderful experience. While the World Cup has been our focus in terms of developing the team and what we have been aiming at over the last number of years in terms of squad development, I think there are plenty more young players still to come through to international rugby and that is an exciting prospect for the future."
"I am especially pleased that three of the other coaches are staying in place to continue to work with the team, as I believe they have all been instrumental in helping to bring the squad along in terms of the players and performance levels. While the majority of the coaching team are staying on, I feel I must make special mention about Alan Gaffney. Alan is contributing a huge amount to the progress of the team and I know that he will make a positive contribution with his vast rugby knowledge and skills to whatever area he gets involved in."
"The players and coaches have had some good days during the last three years and the next four months represent the biggest challenge that this particular group have faced together. The hard work that the players, coaches and the IRFU are currently putting into our preparations has been immense and I believe that if we maintain this level of commitment to each other, we will be in a good place come August and the World Cup in September."