Declan Kidney's future as Ireland head coach remains very much in doubt, with growing calls for the 53-year-old to resign.
With IRFU yet to make a decision about the future of the former Munster coach, whose contract expires in the summer, here are four candidates who could replace Kidney.
Conor O'Shea is among the favourites to replace Kidney after an impressive reign at Harlequins. The 42-year-old led the London-based side to the Aviva Premiership title last season. O'Shea, who earned 35 Ireland caps between 1993 and 2000, has also sculpted Quins into genuine Heineken Cup challengers this term, with his side facing a home tie against Munster for a place in the last four. O'Shea previously worked for the RFU as a Director of Regional Academies, overseeing the development of England's future stars. It could prove valuable experience should he be handed the Ireland role as the Quins boss will be immediately tasked with bringing through a new generation of Irish rugby stars. Whether O'Shea would be willing to walk away from his current project with Quins remains to be seen.
Joe Schmidt would be overly qualified to succeed Kidney at the Irish helm. The New Zealand-born coach guided Leinster to back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2012 after taking charge of the province in 2010. During that run, Schmidt's side suffered just one defeat in 16 European ties as he brought an exciting brand of rugby to Leinster. His record with Clermont Auvergne was also impressive, leading them to the title in 2010 after being runners-up in the two previous seasons. Some may point to his Leinster allegiance as a negative, but Kidney swapped Munster for Ireland, so it shouldn't be an issue. The IRFU could face a tough challenge convincing the Kiwi to replace Kidney with the coach previously expressing his desire to see out his Leinster deal before before returning to New Zealand.
Ireland Under-20 coach Mike Ruddock has been touted as a possible candidate to fill the head coach role should Kidney be axed. The 53-year-old has been in his current position since August 2010, with Ireland finishing third in the most recent Six Nations campaign. He spent two years as Wales head coach in the middle of the last decade, ending the Red Dragon's 28-year wait to win the Grand Slam in 2006. The benefit of appointing Ruddock would undoubtedly be his knowledge of the young, upcoming talent in Ireland which he has garnished over the past two years in his current job. It would prove vital when it comes to ushering in new talent to breath life into the Irish squad.
Nick Mallet has been linked to almost every high-profile job going after leaving Italy in November 2011. He helped develop the Azzurri into a difficult side to beat, a process which has been continued by current head coach Jacques Brunel. The 56-year-old's track record is pretty impressive, winning 17 games in a row, with the highlight leading his native South Africa to the Tri Nations series in 1998 before reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 1999. He quit the Springboks over a row with the SARFU about ticket prices in 1999. Mallet was one of the candidates considered to replace Martin Johnson as England head coach but missed out to Stuart Lancaster.