The Irish Rugby Football Union is delighted to announce that Declan Kidney has been confirmed as the new head coach of the Ireland senior team.
The 48-year-old current Munster coach has been invited to sign a contract that will see him lead Ireland up to and including the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
So that he can fully concentrate on his obligations with Munster and their participation in the Heineken Cup final in Cardiff on May 24 and subsequently other matters relating to the long term make up of the Ireland team management, the IRFU has decided that the incoming Irish coach should not take part in the forthcoming summer tour games against the Barbarians, New Zealand and Australia, nor in the selection and preparation of that squad.
Management and player squads, relating to the summer tour and also Ireland's participation in the Barclays Churchill Cup tournament, will be announced shortly.
Commenting on the announcement, Declan Kidney said: "There is no greater honour for any coach then to lead his own country. I have had that privilege at several levels of the game in Ireland from Schools to Under-19s as well as working with the Ireland senior team and I am delighted to have this opportunity and to be here at what is the pinnacle of my career.
"I have worked with many exceptional players during my career at both international and provincial level and there is no doubt that we have the talent in Ireland to be successful at the highest level.
"The challenge going forward for the Ireland team and Irish rugby as a whole is to continue the growth and success on the field. I am excited about the challenge and looking forward to working with the players.
"My focus now for the next three weeks will be totally on the Munster team and the preparation for the Heineken Cup final."
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: "The record of Declan Kidney speaks for itself and it was obvious from the very beginning of this process that he was one of the main contenders to lead Ireland to the next Rugby World Cup in 2011.
"His ability to achieve success and develop players in the ever increasing competitive arena of professional rugby is proven and the IRFU is delighted to have made this appointment.
"While the need to make the appointment as soon as was practicable was important, the IRFU was conscious of keeping any disruption to the preparations of the Munster team to a minimum."
Declan Kidney is one of the most respected and decorated coaches in Ireland and has previously coached the Ireland Schools and Under-19 teams.
Most notably, he coached the Irish Under-19s to victory in the 1998 FIRA World Championship in France - that Irish side included current senior internationals Brian O'Driscoll, Donncha O'Callaghan and Paddy Wallace.
Kidney continued up the coaching ladder when he took the position of head coach with Munster, bringing them to their first Heineken Cup final in 2000.
Munster reached their second final in 2002 and following that, Kidney took a role as assistant coach to the Ireland senior team, working with them during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
The Corkman then coached Leinster for one season, bringing them to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup in 2005 before returning to Munster.
His success has continued with his home province where he guided the team to victory in the competition in 2006, with that memorable final win over Biarritz at the Millennium Stadium.