Simon Easterby to fill in as interim Ulster head coach
New head coach, Dan McFarland may not be arriving until midway through the campaign
Simon Easterby will take charge in Belfast this week. Photograph: Inpho
Ulster’s continuing flirtation with interim coaches continued on Tuesday as Ireland forward’s coach Simon Easterby was appointed to provide coaching support at Ulster before the arrival of new head coach, Dan McFarland early next year.
The IRFU have been careful not to call Easterby an interim coach but as he begins work in the province that’s exactly what he is until McFarland sorts out his position with Scottish head coach Gregor Townsend and the Scottish Rugby Union.
McFarland was announced as Ulster’s long-term successor to Jono Gibbes in April but Scotland Rugby have resolutely held to their current assistant’s contractual obligation to serve a notice period lasting until January 2019.
The originally reported ‘Plan B’ for Ulster was that Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell would pack his bags and head north, which is now obviously not the case.
This gives the 42-year-old former Scarlets coach, Easterby, six months in Belfast before McFarland arrives on the scene to begin his three year contract.
Les Kiss was appointed interim Director of Rugby of Ulster in 2014 before taking over, while Neil Doak stood in as interim Ulster coach between Mark Anscombe’s departure and Kiss coming in from his position with Ireland.
The move by Easteby is another change in the province, which has undergone a complete clean out following the departure of Kiss and more recently Gibbes.
Jared Payne, a loss at fullback and outside centre to Joe Schmidt and the Irish team, has moved swiftly from his forced retirement from playing due to a head injury into life as Ulster’s defence coach
Banbridge RFC and RBAI chief Daniel Soper has also joined the Ulster team as skills coach while Ulster are also looking for a new CEO following the announcement of Shane Logan in June that he was stepping down.
The IRFU issued a short statement about the appointment saying Easterby would be starting in Ulster this week. It did not say how it might affect his work with Ireland for the November International Series.
“Ireland coach Simon Easterby will provide coaching support at Ulster in the interim period before the arrival of new head coach, Dan McFarland,” said the statement.
“Simon will commence work with the Ulster coaching staff this week.”
The younger brother of Leinster’s head of operations Guy, Easterby is Ireland’s most-capped flanker with 65 appearances between 2000 and 2008. He was also a member of the British and Irish Lions squad for the 2005 tour to New Zealand.