In addition to confirming that Neil Doak will be Ulster's head coach on a full-time basis, the IRFU has also announced that Les Kiss will resume his duties as Irish defence coach from next week after his stint as interim director of rugby, before returning to the province after the 2015 World Cup to fill the latter role permanently.
Doak, the 42-year-old, Lisburn-born former Ulster scrumhalf who played 76 games for the province before retiring in April 2005, has been on the coaching treadmill for much of the last two decades and will take over from departed New Zealander Mark Anscombe after being the de facto head coach this season. He also represented Ireland 32 times at cricket as a right-handed middle order batsman and offspin bowler.
"We are pleased to have completed negotiations with Neil Doak . . . and are close to finalising our other coaching requirements," said Ulster chief executive Shane Logan yesterday in advance of Ulster hosting unbeaten Guinness Pro12 leaders Glasgow on Saturday evening.
“We will announce a team manager in due course to bridge the gap prior to Les taking up his role, allowing him to be fully committed to his coaching duties with the national team.”
Kiss added: “I am very appreciative of the continued faith the IRFU and Ulster Rugby have demonstrated in me and, while I’m delighted to get the security in the long term, I am very much focused first and foremost on the next 12 months. It’s exciting that the Springboks arrive here in just over three weeks and that the Guinness Series is almost upon us.
“The National coaching team have remained in close contact and Joe [Schmidt] has been particularly supportive of my dual roles over the last few months, which has made things a lot easier for me.”
Already resigned to being without a host of front-line Test players, such as Cian Healy, Donnacha Ryan, Iain Henderson, Seán O'Brien, Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden as the increasing ravages of the modern game take hold, the Irish sense of foreboding ahead of the Guinness Series will not have been assuaged by the IRB's match official appointments for November.
In particular, the Irish management will have been mildly alarmed to discover that the match referee for their opening match against the mighty South Africans, conquerors of New Zealand last Saturday, at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, November 8th, will be Romain Poite.
Irish sides have had a decidedly chequered history with the French official.
Then again, so too do the Springboks, following on from Poite's decision to yellow card Bismarck du Plessis against the All Blacks in Eden Park last year for a huge hit on Dan Carter, after which the IRB publicly declared Poite was wrong to do so amid a storm of South African protest.
Ireland's second match against Georgia on Sunday, November 16th, will be refereed by another Frenchman Mathieu Reynal. While the game against Australia six days later will be refereed by New Zealand's Glen Jackson.