Ireland today embarked on the task of finding a successor to Eddie O’Sullivan – criticised for not getting the best from a golden generation of players but hailed as the country’s most successful coach.
O’Sullivan’s resignation on Wednesday re-started a national game of speculation just weeks after the high-profile appointment of Giovanni Trapattoni ended months of excitement among soccer fans when Ireland lacked a national soccer manager.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said in a statement on Thursday it would start the search for O’Sullivan’s replacement.
“His record as Ireland’s most successful coach is his proud legacy and all of us in Irish rugby are grateful to him for the many memorable moments and achievements our senior Irish players and squads attained to during his coaching tenure,” the IRFU said.
O’Sullivan, 49, led Ireland to three triple crowns after becoming coach in 2001, but it was his team’s recent performances, notably a poor World Cup and Six Nations campaign, that hastened his departure.
“That’s the life of the modern coach,” said former Wales and Leinster coach Mike Ruddock, himself seen as one of O’Sullivan’s potential successors.
“You are only as good I guess as the last game,” Ruddock told public broadcaster RTE. Ruddock said he would be flattered to be offered the Ireland job though he was committed to his current position at Worcester.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power have installed former Australia centre Pat Howard as favourite to replace O’Sullivan at 5/2, with South Africa’s World Cup-winning coach Jake White also among the frontrunners.
Irish newspapers said O’Sullivan’s fate was sealed after the 16-12 defeat this month to Wales at Croke Park, which was followed by a 33-10 thrashing by England at Twickenham.
“To many, O’Sullivan failed to elicit the most from the much-vaunted “golden generation” of Irish rugby players,” the Irish Independent newspaper wrote.
“To others, he was a technically brilliant coach who dragged Irish rugby single-handedly into the 21st century.”