The Ireland under-20s will be on the lookout for a new head coach after it was confirmed that Kieran Campbell will be leaving both his roles with Ireland and Ulster.
Despite only being confirmed as Noel McNamara's replacement for the under-20 side in January, Ulster and the IRFU confirmed the news this morning that he would leave for "a new challenge".
Last week, the Belfast Telegraph reported Campbell was being lined up for a role at English Premiership-hopefuls Ealing Trailfinders.
In a statement this morning, the IRFU's Head of Elite Player Development Peter Smyth paid tribute to the former Irish international scrum half's work in player pathways in Ireland.
"Firstly, I would like to start by acknowledging the immense service Kieran Campbell has given to both Ulster and Irish Rugby over the last 20 years in his various roles encompassing all aspects of the game.
"His playing career ran through the entire spectrum of the Elite Player Pathway from National Age-Grade sides through to the Ulster and Ireland senior teams.
"Following on from this, his positions with Ulster Rugby and the IRFU as firstly an Elite Player Development Officer and then subsequently Academy Manager and National Age-Grade coach, leaves a true legacy of a player-centred approach to development across all programmes, systems and teams he has engaged with.
"Due to his interactions with many stakeholders throughout Irish Rugby, Kieran has played an integral part in the progressions of numerous players into the professional game. Many have cited publicly the influence he has had on the beginnings and support of their careers. Alongside this he has also ensured the establishment and success of the Ulster Provincial talent squad, National Talent Squad and continued advancement of the Ulster Academy and National Age-Grade programmes," Smyth said.
In recent seasons, Campbell has worked alongside a number of high profile prospects at Ulster - notably Jacob Stockdale, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Michael Lowry and Tom O'Toole.
Having worked as part of Noel McNamara's coaching team with the Ireland under-20s, Kieran Campbell was promoted to head coach in January of this year, but has yet to take charge of the team in a competitive game due to the Six Nations postponement.
On his time with Ulster and the IRFU, Kieran Campbell said: "The last six years has been a great journey in developing a pathway for Ulster’s young talent. I have been fortunate to lead the Ulster Academy, to support the development of young men in reaching their potential as rugby players and people, and I am delighted that many are now realising their potential and performing with Ulster.
"I have relished the challenge of my role with Ulster as Academy Manager, and with Ireland Under-20s, however I believe the time is right for me to now step into a new challenge and I’m excited for what lies ahead. I wish the Province every success going forward. Ulster has been a huge part of my family’s and my life both as a player and coach, and we will leave with many great memories and friends."
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