Ford makes Irish switch


Ireland today followed the lead set by their Six Nations rivals by appointing a specialist defensive coach from rugby league.

Mike Ford, a former Wigan and Great Britain scrum-half, today quit his position as head coach of Oldham RL Club to join Ireland as defence co-ordinator.

England set the trend three years ago by appointing Phil Larder, a former Great Britain RL coach, as defensive mastermind and the other nations have since followed suit.

Scotland have former Leeds and Widnes full-back Alan Tait as defensive specialist, Wales recently turned to ex-rugby league national coach Clive Griffiths and France have acquired the services of amateur rugby league player Dave Ellis.

Ford, 36, has signed a six-month contract to work alongside newly-appointed head coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who has succeeded Warren Gatland, in preparation for the Six Nations Championship.

The former Wigan, Warrington, Castleford and Wakefield player is thought to have landed the job ahead of rugby league legend Ellery Hanley, now coaching at Bath.

"I'm really excited about it," said Ford. "It's all happened very quickly. "It's a six-month contract and a part-time position but I'm going to treat it as a full-time position because I want it to work.

"We don't know each other so it's a trial basis in a way but I'm going to back myself."

Ford follows a host of league men into coaching the 15-a-side code.

London Broncos assistant Damian McGrath recently switched codes to link up with former Wigan star Joe Lydon with England while Shaun Edwards is currently on the backroom staff at Wasps, Billy McGinty has joined Sale, Hanley is with Bath and Larder works for both Leicester and England.

Ford, who signed a new three-year contract with Oldham in November, had offered to stay on with the Northern Ford Premiership club and do both jobs but the offer was rejected by the Lancashire outfit.

O'Sullivan said: "Mike Ford brings another critical layer of specialist coaching talent to the Irish management structure.

"He has the reputation of being one of the brightest, innovative young coaches in Britain and I am delighted to have secured his services in the newly-created position as defensive co-ordinator."

Ford will join the new Irish management team of O'Sullivan, manager Brian O'Brien, assistant coach Declan Kidney and forwards coach Niall O'Donovan at a week-long squad training session in Limerick from January 13th-18th.