London Irish director Brian Smith released early from contract

Former Ireland and Australia international leaves Premiership club on compassionate grounds

 London Irish Director of Rugby Brian Smith has left the club on compasisonate grounds and will return to Australia. (Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

London Irish Director of Rugby Brian Smith has left the club on compasisonate grounds and will return to Australia. (Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

 

London Irish have confirmed the rugby director Brian Smith’s departure from the club. He has been granted early release from his contract, which was due to expire on June 30 this year, on “compassionate grounds” and he will return to Australia for family reasons.

The Exiles’ forwards coach, Glenn Delaney, will take on the role of interim head coach between now and the end of this season.

Former England attack coach Smith, 48, played for both Ireland and Australia and had two spells with London Irish as rugby director. He was in charge between 2005 and 2008, guiding the club to a third-place Premiership finish and the European Challenge Cup final. He also took Irish to the 2008 Heineken Cup semi-finals, when they were beaten by Toulouse at Twickenham. Smith then spent three years with England before returning to Irish.

“My family has to be my priority right now, which is why I have asked to be released from my contract early,” he said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my 10-year association with London Irish and I will look back on my time with fond memories.”

Irish are currently 20 points above Premiership bottom club and red-hot relegation favourites London Welsh, effectively securing their top-flight status for another season.

Delaney, meanwhile, will be assisted by Richard Whiffin and Mark Tainton, and the club’s academy coaching team of former Exiles players Nick Kennedy, Declan Danaher and Paul Hodgson.

They host Grenoble in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday, still harbouring quarter-final ambitions in that competition.

The Irish executive chairman, David Fitzgerald, added: “London Irish is grateful to Brian Smith for the contribution he has made to the club. He led us to the greatest experience we’ve had to date of European rugby, and introduced some great players to the club.

“We believe that, following Sunday’s results at Madejski Stadium and Kingston Park [where Newcastle beat London Welsh], our Premiership status for next season is more or less secure and allows us to focus on preparing for next season.

“All involved with London Irish, especially the new owners, would like to personally thank Brian for his considerable contribution over the last two-and-a-half years, and wish him and his family well for the future.”

Irish say they will announce a new head coach “in due course”. The former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney is thought to be in the frame.

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