The Irish Rugby Football Union today announced that Mike Ruddock has decided to step down from his role as Ireland Under-20 head coach.
Mike Ruddock, a Grand Slam-winning head coach with Wales, has coached the Ireland Under-20 squad for the past four seasons.
Under his leadership, the Ireland U-20s have steadily moved up the world rankings and achieved a best ever finish of fourth place at the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand.
The U-20s have achieved some notable victories during Ruddock’s tenure, while a large number of players have progressed to professional rugby, with ex Under-20 players such as Paddy Jackson, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Kieran Marmion and Jordi Murphy achieving senior international recognition.
In the resultant restructure to the Ireland Under-20 set-up, Connacht Rugby’s Nigel Carolan will now undertake the coaching requirements of the squad.
Nigel, who has been the Connacht Academy Manager since 2004, will retain his role at Connacht. He played professionally for Connacht between 1996 and 2000 before taking up a role as a Development Officer with the province.
Nigel was an assistant coach with Ireland Under-20s from 2008 to 2010 which incorporated the IRB Junior World Championships in Japan and Argentina.
Ruddock explained: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Ireland Under-20s and it has been very rewarding. In particular our performances on the world stage have been extremely competitive and I am pleased to be able to hand over the reins knowing that the Ireland Under-20 team is now a top four world-ranked nation.
“Around 10 players return with international experience at Under-20 level for the season ahead and so the team is well placed to be successful in the next Under-20 Six Nations and Junior World Championship tournaments.
“It has been difficult trying to juggle the ever increasing demands of the age grade programme whilst coaching Lansdowne FC in the Ulster Bank League, and now it’s time to concentrate on trying to add another league title to the one we won in 2013.”
IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora commented: “The IRFU would like to thank Mike for his excellent contribution to age grade rugby. He has provided invaluable knowledge and experience over the last four years and we wish him continued success with his coaching career at Lansdowne FC.
“Nigel will be supported by his fellow provincial Academy Managers and we wish them well for the coming season.”
Nigel himself said: “It is an exciting opportunity to be working with the top Under-20 talent from the four provinces. I am looking forward to working closely with the other provincial Academy Managers to maximise the potential of the talent at our disposal.”