Eddie O'Sullivan will be welcoming three new faces to the national management team as Ireland begin preparations for the November internationals.
On the coaching side, Graham Steadman has been confirmed as the new national defensive coach. Steadman, a former Great Britain Rugby League international player and coach, has been working as the defensive coach with Munster since 2004 and will take up his role as full time national defensive coach with immediate effect.
"Graham Steadman's record as a defensive coach speaks for itself and I am sure that he will bring fresh ideas to add to the Irish team's strong defensive record," said Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan.
With the departure of Mike Ford to Saracens, the need for a new defensive coach to take the handover from Ford was essential and Steadman's record with Munster has been excellent, with Munster boasting the second best defensive record in the Celtic League last year. Steadman will continue to assist Munster until they appoint a replacement coach and this should be completed by the end of the Heineken Cup Pool stages.
Another addition to the coaching staff is the appointment of Brian McLaughlin as national skills coach. A former school master from Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Brian coached the senior team there to five Ulster Schools Cup victories and has over 15 years experience of coaching at Schools, Under 21 and senior level. He was part of the successful Under 21 coaching team that won two triple crowns in 1996 and 1998.
"The addition of Brian McLaughlin as skills coach is in an area that I am keen to develop and it will allow us to sharpen and hone specific skills of the players on an individual and team basis," said O'Sullivan.
The sharp contrast in the skill levels betqween the Lions and All Blacks during the summer brought this to most peoples' attention, but it is an area that O'Sullivan was looking at even before the tour to the shacky Isles.
The final addition is that of Gerard Carmody as national team manager. Gerard has been working with the IRFU since 1992 in a variety of roles, most recently as match and events manager at Lansdowne Road and Thomond Park. In 2003, Gerard was seconded to the Irish team for the Rugby World Cup as squad administrator where he was responsible for all logistical issues in the lead up to and during the tournament. He returned to his position as match manager following the World Cup before being appointed to his present position. "Gerard's appointment as national team manager gives us an effective logistical back up for the entire squad throughout the season," said O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan added: "These three additions to the management team will be essential in our preparations for this season and through until the World Cup in 2007."