London Irish confirm Tom Coventry as new head coach

Chiefs assistant coach to replace Brian Smith at the Exiles at the end of the Super Rugby season in July

By Gareth Llewellyn

London Irish have confirmed that Tom Coventry will join the club as head coach in the for the 2015/16 season.

The 48-year-old Chiefs assistant coach will remain in New Zealand for the upcoming Super Rugby season before heading to Hazlewood on a three-year deal after his commitments as co-head coach of Samoa at the Rugby World Cup.

The owners have a clear vision of where they want to take the club and it is a challenge I am immensely excited by and I cannot wait to get stuck in when I join.

Tom Coventry

Seemingly safe from relegation with seven rounds of the Aviva Premiership to play, the Exiles announced on Tuesday that director of rugby Brian Smith had left the club five months before the end of his contract on “compassionate grounds”, with forwards coach Glenn Delaney taking charge of the first team for the remainder of the season.

Former Munster and Ireland head coach Declan Kidney had been linked with a move to the the Aviva Premiership in the Irish press at the same time conflicting reports came out of New Zealand that Coventry was the man for the job.

“I had lengthy discussions with the board of directors at London Irish and with the significant investment that has been put into the club, especially with the new training facility, it made my decision to join a straightforward one,” Coventry said.

“The owners have a clear vision of where they want to take the club and it is a challenge I am immensely excited by and I cannot wait to get stuck in when I join.

“I have enjoyed my time with the Chiefs and will continue to do so until it is time to go, but I think to stay fresh as a coach it is important to immerse yourself in new environments, new challenges and experiences which is what I am going to do.

“I have a job to do with the Chiefs this season and will concentrate on the next phase of my career with London Irish at the end of the Super Rugby season.”

The former Waikato loose forward’s time with the Chiefs has seen the Hamilton-based Super Rugby franchise win two titles in the last three years.

He’s brought a physical edge to our forward play and has the experience and knowledge to do a great job as head coach at London Irish.

Dave Rennie

After retiring as a player in 1994, Coventry has taken up a number of coaching roles, including at Otago University, New Zealand Schools, New Zealand U20s and four years with Hawke’s Bay, where he won the ITM Cup.

Coventry was in the frame for the Hurricanes head coach job for the 2015 Super Rugby season after Mark Hammett left to join the Guinness PRO12 as Cardiff Blues director of rugby, but was overlooked as they went with Wellington native Chris Boyd.

As well as luring Coventry from Super Rugby, the Exiles are also expected to announce the capture of All Blacks prop Ben Franks from Hurricanes at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup with further marquee signings expected in the coming months.

“I’m pretty sure he has gone through the process of signing his contract with them for after the World Cup, but that was done before my involvement,” Coventry told Radio New Zealand.

“It’s good to have him there, another Kiwi and obviously a quality player, so I’m looking forward to being involved with Ben.

“Obviously I was training teams to try and combat Ben’s strength so it would be nice to have him on your side for a change.”

Chiefs head coach David Rennie also paid tribute to Coventry’s coaching abilities and believes the move to the Premiership is a good one for his colleague, who has had a wealth of forward talent to work with in Hamilton, including Smoan international Mahonri Schwalger and All Blacks trio Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam and Sam Cane.

“Tom is an excellent coach who has been a big part of our success,” Rennie said.

“He’s brought a physical edge to our forward play and has the experience and knowledge to do a great job as head coach at London Irish. We wish him well.”

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