Simon Easterby is leaving the Scarlets after 15 years in Wales
Simon Easterby is leaving the Scarlets to take up the role of forwards coach with Ireland. The west Wales region confirmed today that their former captain and coach will be allowed to leave his current position at the club to step back onto the international stage.
The move, which was finalised between the IRFU and Scarlets Board this week, will enable Easterby to return to Irish rugby four years after he won the last of his 65 caps. That tally made him Ireland's most capped back row forward.
Easterby first came to Wales in 1999 and he went on to make 196 appearances for Llanelli and the Scarlets. He was captain for five consecutive seasons, scored 19 tries and played more than 50 European games.
"I am very grateful to the Scarlets Board for allowing this to happen and for respecting and supporting my ambition and development as a coach at international level. It's a huge opportunity for me in Ireland and one I am very excited about, but it's been a very emotional decision to leave the Region that has been such a major part of my rugby career," said Easterby.
"What makes it easier is the knowledge that we have a strong coaching structure in place and a very balanced playing squad that has not changed dramatically over the summer. We've worked hard to make good quality signings that will further strengthen our squad and I believe Scarlets Rugby will go forward very positively next season.
"We have seen good progress over the past two years in our rugby environment and have retained coaching expertise in technical areas of scrum, kicking and skills development. We have a strong back-room with an excellent medical, strength and conditioning, analysis and coaching group in place and in particular, we are fortunate to have Mark Jones, Mark Tainton (kicking coach) as well as scrum coach Danny Wilson still involved.
"We also welcome Wayne Pivac, who brings a wealth of experience with him to Parc y Scarlets. He has had international rugby experience with Fiji as well as being involved in Auckland Rugby for more than 15 years.
"He has a broad level of experience across national coaching, Sevens and is a proven Head Coach. He also brings expertise in forwards coaching and the breakdown area which will strengthen our coaching team here and give a wider dimension to our rugby group."
Easterby expressed his thanks for everyone who has supported his career in West Wales. He said: "I am grateful to everyone that has helped me throughout my Scarlets career. My particular thanks go to all the players in the squad for their hard work and commitment, the backroom staff who have been a pleasure to work alongside over the past couple of years and all our supporters who continue to show great passion and loyalty to all that rugby stands for in West Wales."
Chief Executive of the Scarlets Region, Mark Davies, was fulsome in his praise of Easterby's contribution to the Scarlets and the progression he has showed on the coaching front.
"It is a compliment to Simon's fast development and success within his coaching role at Parc y Scarlets over the past two years that he has been offered this opportunity. We were aware that both Joe Schmidt and the IRFU had identified Simon some time ago and as a result of his and the Scarlets progress over the last two seasons, this chance has come his way," admitted Davies.
"In the same spirit that we gave our full support to the WRU and Mark Jones for him to join as Wales' Backs Coach for the Six Nations winning team in 2013, we also completely understand Simon's ambition to test himself at the highest level.
"What was also important to Simon and the Scarlets was to ensure that we have everything in place for next season. It's been vital to retain Simon throughout our pre-season and into the first phase of our competitions so that we have an effective hand-over and ensure the game structures the coaching group have worked through in the off-season, along with our strengthened squad, gel well together.
"As Scarlets we thank Simon for his huge contribution as a player and most recently as our coach for all that he has done to represent this Region at the highest level; he has worked with huge integrity, dedication and passion and wish him all the best in his international coaching career.
"It's a challenge for any business environment operating in a truly competitive environment to retain talented people - of course that's particularly the case in professional sport where performance is all. The only thing guaranteed to be constant is change - so it's essential to have robust structures and effective succession planning in place."
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton look ahead to this week's crunch RBS 6 Nations tie against France, where the Wales skipper in particular is keen to make his mark, as Paris has proved a bleak place for him in the past.
Reaction from Scotland and a special focus on Welsh Women's rugby in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from Wales captain Sam Warburton and coach Warren Gatland, as well as Wales U20 reaction from forwards coach Geraint Lewis, along with Josh Adams and Olly Griffiths. There is also a special focus on Welsh Women's rugby with coach Rhys Edwards, as well as hearing from clubs Bedlinog, Penybanc, Kidwelly and Skewen. We also speak to volunteer of the year, Sue Davies on Whitland and the Scarlets.
Following their historic win over England, Wales Under 20 suffered a narrow, 36-34 loss to their Scottish counterparts last weekend, despite outscoring them by five tries to three. Watch the match highlights and reaction.
Disappointment at the Millennium Stadium, but don't be sad because two out of three is not bad in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast as the 20s and Women both win. We hear from Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny about the defeat to England and looking forward to Scotland. Wales U20s captain Ollie Griffiths, back Josh Adams and forwards coach Geraint Lewis talk about their victory over double world champions England, while Wales Women also beat a world championship winning England team - we speak to backs Elinor Snowsill, Ade Taviner and Laurie Harris.
England coach Stuart Lancaster gives his verdict after seeing his skipper Chris Robshaw lead his side to victory against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in the opening game of the RBS 6 Nations championship.