WARRIORS have recruited top scrum coach Mark Irish to join a new-look coaching team at Sixways for the 2020/21 season, despite continued uncertainty over the future of this year’s campaign.
The former England Under-21 international prop will join Warriors as scrum and assistant forwards coach from Bristol Bears along with new forwards coach Jonathan Thomas at the end of the current season.
Irish, 38, worked with Warriors chief Alan Solomons when the South African had a stint as a coaching consultant at Bristol three years ago.
His arrival marks the end of an off-field revamp for Warriors with defence coach Omar Mouneimne and head of performance Johan Pretorius also both signing contract extensions.
Irish will become the third new member of Solomons’ coaching team with former Wales backs coach Matt Sherratt, who began his coaching career in Warriors’ academy, returning to Sixways as backs and attack coach from Ospreys.
“I’m excited to be joining Worcester Warriors. The owners have a strong vision for the future and Alan Solomons is building a talented squad and coaching team at Sixways,” Irish said.
“It’s a new challenge for me and one that I’m relishing. I’d like to thank Pat Lam, the staff, the players and the supporters at Bristol for making my time with the club so enjoyable.”
As a player, Irish played his formative rugby for Bridgwater & Albion and then had a season with Gloucester before moving to Bristol in 2004.
He made 146 appearances in eight seasons with Bristol, which also included a loan spell with Newbury Blues, and ended his playing career with London Scottish.
Irish then moved into coaching with Hartpury College where he coached their AASE League-winning Under-18s side as well as working with the National Leagues senior squad. He re-joined Bristol five years ago as academy forwards coach and has combined that role with his first team scrum coach duties since 2018. Irish has also been England Students assistant coach having previously represented the side as a player.
“It is great news for the club that Iro has decided to join us,” said Solomons.
“Iro is one of the leading scrum coaches in the Premiership and has done a terrific job at Bristol. In his time at Bristol he has formed a strong relationship with JT for next season.
“I have no doubt that our forward pack will benefit immeasurably from their expertise and synergy. He is a tremendous bloke and a great team man, who will fit in superbly here at Sixways.
Both Mouneimne and Pretorius have had previously worked closely with Solomons in South Africa before joining Warriors.
Mouneimne joined Warriors in 2017 having previously worked as Italy’s defence coach when they beat France for the first time in the Six Nations in 2011. Pretorius joined Warriors two years ago from Super Rugby side Sharks and has helped turn Warriors into one of the fittest squads in the Gallagher Premiership.
“Omar is a world-class defence coach, who has had a huge impact on the team over a number of years. Over and above this, he is a quality bloke, who puts his heart and soul into Warriors,” Solomons said.
“Johan is a fantastic bloke, a great team man and a pleasure to work with. We have been together for many years and I really look forward to continuing working with him.”