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South African franchise snaps up Noel McNamara, the Ireland age-grade Grand Slam coach

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ex-Ireland U20s Grand Slam-winning coach Noel McNamara has landed a position at the Durban-based Sharks ahead of the South African franchise’s inclusion in the new United Rugby Championship for next season. The Sharks, the Bulls, the Stormers and the Lions are set to compete against the dozen European clubs who were part of the old PRO14 tournament and McNamara is set to take up a senior coaching role in Durban having worked in recent years as the academy manager at Leinster.

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McNamara was head coach of the Ireland U20s from 2018 to 2020, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019, and he was then appointed Leinster academy manager having initially joined the IRFU’s elite player pathway team in 2016 as a Leinster development officer.

He said: “I’m grateful to the IRFU and Leinster for helping to facilitate this move which will be another great learning and development opportunity for me as a coach. 

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“I have received great support to date on my coaching journey garnering experience with multiple underage teams, exposure to senior provincial and national coaches and getting the opportunity of a three-month placement with North Harbour in New Zealand.  This appointment is exciting for both me and my family and I am looking forward to getting started.”

McNamara’s coaching career began at Glenstal Abbey in Limerick before an eight-year tenure at Clongowes Wood in Kildare produced two Leinster senior schools cup titles.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora added: “Noel is a smart ambitious young coach who has achieved success at underage level. This is an exciting senior role for Noel in South Africa where he will be exposed to a different rugby and coaching culture and which will no doubt greatly benefit his development.

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“Noel has progressed through the coaching pathway in Ireland and in recent discussions with him, it was clear he was in need of a fresh challenge that would help accelerate his coaching career. We looked at different environments and what could be a good fit and this definitely offers a fantastic opportunity in a senior role. Noel’s time in South Africa is sure to benefit Irish rugby in the future. We will be monitoring his progress closely.”

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