The hunt for a successor to Pat Lam at Connacht continues as two top contenders for the job have ruled themselves out of the running.
Since recently announcing his intentions to depart at the end of the season, Connacht and the IRFU have been on a mission to find a suitably strong replacement for Lam, and quickly.
The reigning Pro 12 champions have failed to emulate last seasons heroics this term and with their influential head coach set to take up a lucrative post with Bristol next season, there is an ever growing urgency to steady the ship in Galway.
Former All Black, Leinster coach and current assistant at Clermont Jono Gibbes, along with former All Black out-half Tony Brown had emerged as favourites for the role in recent weeks but now, according to The42, both have ruled themselves out of the running.
Gibbes is currently contracted to Clermont Auvergne until 2018 but despite having a release clause allowing him leave should a top job appear, the 39-year-old has chosen to remain in France.
Brown is set to coach Super Rugby ‘s Highlanders next season before a move to Japan to assist head coach Jamie Joseph until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
According to Japanese media outlet Kyoto News, Brown was unaware of the talk linking him to the Irish province. The 42-year-old stated simply,
“That’s the first I’ve heard about it. I am contracted to Japan until after the World Cup in 2019.”
With both Kiwis now out of the picture for the soon to be vacant role, the IRFU must now look elsewhere for someone to fill the considerable shoes of Pat Lam.
How long, therefore, will it be before the name Stuart Lancaster bubbles to the surface?
Currently working with Leo Cullen at Leinster, the former England boss has helped guide the three-time Heineken Cup winners into a period of form not seen since those heady days when the likes of D’Arcy and O’Driscoll led the province to European glory.
Already entrenched in Ireland’s provincial set up, the Englishman could just be the solution Connacht need.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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