Coaching change for Ireland as Littler’s reign ends

Ireland will have a new coaching set-up for this year’s World Cup after announcing the departure of Stuart Littler.

The 43-year-old Oldham team chief had been at the helm of the national team – for whom he was capped 19 times, and played in the 2008 and 2013 World Cups – since September 2018, when he succeeded Mark Aston, who was in charge for six years.

Littler, who started coaching at Swinton, where he finished a playing career spent mainly at Salford but which also took in spells at Leigh and Rochdale, masterminded Ireland’s qualification for this year’s tournament in England.

They beat Spain and Italy to top a European play-off group in 2019 after defeating Scotland but losing to France and Wales in 2018.

Ireland will face Jamaica, Lebanon and New Zealand in Group C in October.

Rugby League Ireland board chairman Jim Reynolds said the plan is “to go in a different coaching direction” with a further announcement due on Monday.

“Effective on Tuesday, March 29, Stuart Littler ceased to be head coach of our senior men’s squad following a week of discussions with him,” said Reynolds.

“We would emphasise that this event in no way diminishes the sincere high esteem that Stuart is, and will always be, held in by RLI after his illustrious playing and coaching career.

“We especially mention his 19 senior caps over a ten-year playing career that saw him score 40 points and we thank him for steering us through qualification for RLWC2021 as head coach.

“RLI has decided to go in a different coaching direction in this run-up to competing in RLWC2021 and shall be issuing another update on Monday, April 11.

“We wish Stuart the very best of luck and success for the future in his school teaching and Rugby League coaching careers.”

In a statement on social media, Littler said that he was “as surprised as anyone” by the decision to let him go.

“Personally I was as surprised as anyone by the board’s decision but I have had a bit of time now to reflect and assess moving forward,” he said.

“The board have made a decision to go another way and I wish all the players and staff all the best with the current season and the upcoming World Cup.”