London Irish have announced that Brendan Venter is returning to the club to take up a new role of technical director with immediate effect.
Venter, who ranks among the most experienced and respected coaching experts in the game, renews an association with the Exiles that began in 1998 when he first signed as a centre. Making 84 appearances during two spells with the club, Venter played a key role with Conor O'Shea in leading Irish to its first and only national trophy, the Powergen Cup in 2002.
A member of South Africa's World Cup-winning squad in 1995, Venter subsequently joined Saracens where he played a prominent part in laying the foundations for the club's current success before returning to his medical practice and other rugby commitments.
He returns to London Irish to prepare the squad for the Championship where they will be doing their utmost to ensure that the Exiles return to the Premiership at the first opportunity.
Among Venter's first actions is to appoint Nick Kennedy as director of rugby and Clark Laidlaw as assistant coach, while George Skivington and Academy coaches Declan Danaher and Paul Hodgson will assist with coaching the senior squad. Danaher will oversee defence, Hodgson will focus on skills and Skivington will work with the forwards.
Announcing Venter's appointment, London Irish chief executive Bob Casey said: "Not only is Brendan respected throughout the game for his expertise and experience, he has also been a steadfast friend of this club. We're delighted that he has accepted our invitation to return to lead us through what we know will be a testing season in the Championship.
"It is very encouraging that we’ve retained the talented Clark Laidlaw as an assistant coach and are delighted that Declan Danaher, Paul Hodgson and George Skivington will help with the coaching of the senior team.
"Declan, Paul and Nick have transformed the Academy since they took over in 2014 bringing a wealth of playing experience and coaching expertise, as well as an intimate appreciation of the club and its heritage, to the young players in their charge. I'm sure they will be a valuable addition to Brendan's coaching team."
Commenting on his appointment, Venter said: "The main reason why I decided on London Irish is because I have so many good memories and friends still at the club which made for me a sound and easy decision to be part of the club going forward. The club has genuine ambition to compete in the Premiership and in Europe and has the foundations in place to enable it to do so. I'm looking forward to working with the players, coaches, Board and management to realise the club's ambitions."