IRFU wants Ashton as permanent coach


DISCUSSIONS are taking place with Ireland's rugby coaching adviser, Brian Ashton, with the object of appointing him as permanent coach of the Ireland side.

Ashton has had only 10 days to work with the Ireland team, but already his stamp is on the side. Saturday's 26-25 victory over Wales in Cardiff has added significantly to the IRFU's desire to get him under contract. In all probability, such an appointment would run to the World Cup in 1999.

Discussions with Ashton took place in Cardiff at the weekend, and an announcement confirming that he has moved from the role of coaching adviser to the side to the official title of Ireland coach could be made in the near future.

The IRFU, the election sub committee (the body that appoints the coach), the Ireland manager, Pat Whelan, and his management team, as well as the players, all want Ashton. It was significant that his agent was also in Cardiff at the weekend. The issue of terms is unlikely to prove a barrier what is important is that Ashton has the desire and enthusiasm to take the job.

Other parties are also interested in Ashton's future, including, it is understood, Cardiff Rugby Club.

Meanwhile, Simon Geoghegan, who has been out of the game all season following an operation on a toe, may play for Bath next Saturday. If Geoghegan plays and comes through without difficulty, it could mean that he will be in contention for a place on the Ireland side before the end of the International Championship. No one is a greater admirer of Geoghegan than Ashton who, when coach to Bath, was one of those responsible for bringing Geoghegan to the club.

"He is one of the best and most exciting wings in the game," Ashton said last week.