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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 13:57 GMT
Ireland coach replaced
Warren Gatland's contract has not been renewed
Warren Gatland's side had a good recent record
Warren Gatland's three-year reign as Irish rugby coach is over.

The shock news was announced by the Irish Rugby Football Union on Friday afternoon. It said the New Zealander's contract was not being renewed.

Gatland's assistant Eddie O'Sullivan will take over with immediate effect and his contract will extend beyond the next World Cup through to the 2004 Six Nations.

Munster coach Declan Kidney has been appointed as O'Sullivan's assistant. Brian O'Brien will continue as Irish manager.


It was agreed that it is in the best interests of all concerned, to end the contract with immediate effect
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne

In effect, Gatland has been sacked, although the IRFU are not talking about the decision in those terms.

In a statement, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne praised Gatland's "significant contribution" to Irish rugby.

"But following on-going and detailed reviews, it was agreed that it is in the best interests of all concerned, to end the contract with immediate effect," said Browne.

The IRFU statement quoted Gatland thanking the players for their efforts.

On the face of it, Ireland's recent revival had indicated that Gatland was certain to be retained.

His deal expired after next year's Six Nations and it had been anticipated that he would be offered an extension to take him up to the 2003 World Cup.

Eddie O'Sullivan had been offered a lucrative six-year deal with the US Eagles
Eddie O'Sullivan takes over from Gatland
Despite leading Ireland to wins in successive seasons over France, Gatland was immediately under pressure again when Ireland were hammered by Scotland in September.

Wins against Wales and England seemed certain to have secured Gatland's future but question marks began to surface again after Ireland lost to New Zealand earlier this month.

O'Sullivan was understood to covet the number one job and their working relationship had been described as uneasy.

In addition, O'Sullivan had been offered a lucrative deal with the US Rugby Union.

Noel Murphy, Syd Millar and Eddie Coleman interviewed the Ireland management team of Gatland, his assistant O'Sullivan and manager Brian O'Brien last Monday.

Gatland's record read 18 wins, 19 losses and one draw.

Irish improvement

The Kiwi's love affair with Ireland began after the 1989 All Blacks tour to the country.

He arrived in charge of Ireland via Galwegians and the Connacht coaching reins.

Gatland then took over from Bath's Brian Ashton in 1998 and in his first game nearly produced a shock only for a late try to deny an Ireland victory over France in Paris.

Having won four of their delayed 2001 Six Nations programme and lost only two of their last eight Tests, one would have expected Gatland to be safe for another two years.

O'Sullivan was brought into the management team following Ireland's pummelling against England at Twickenham soon after Ireland's dismal 1999 World Cup campaign.


I'm honoured, delighted and very excited to have been asked to do the job
Eddie O'Sullivan

Since then, many in the IRFU have attributed Ireland's improvement to O'Sullivan's input.

O'Sullivan was coaxed back from America where he was involved as forwards coach with the US Eagles during their 1999 World Cup.

He is understood to have been offered a lucrative six-year contract with the US Rugby Union but O'Sullivan is now only too happy, to remain within the Irish structure.

"I'm honoured, delighted and very excited to have been asked to do the job," O'Sullivan told BBC Sport Online.

"Now it's a matter of settling down and I just can't wait to get fully involved with the squad," he added.

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BBC rugby union correspondent Ian Robertson
"Gatland's decision to stand down has come as a surprise"

Coach loses job

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Should Warren Gatland still be Ireland's coach?

Yes
 83.13% 

No
 16.87% 

1624 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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