The experienced Australian replaces Jim Mallinder, who was sacked two-and-a-half weeks ago following a decade with the Premiership club, and is tasked with lifting Saints back up the table after dropping to 10th after a run of six consecutive league defeats.
Northampton have also lost all four of their European Champions Cup matches this season to Clermont Auvergne, Saracens and the double-header with the Ospreys, but 71-year-old Gaffney’s arrival at Franklin’s Gardens will at least bring clarity to the short-term future of the club and help try to salvage a season that is rapidly unravelling.
Gaffney will take charge of the side from New Year’s Day, after this weekend’s ‘Big Game’ clash with Harlequins at Twickenham, and his first match in charge will come against Gloucester on Saturday 6 January.
“I am really excited about the challenge ahead,” said Gaffney, who is the current National Elite Programmes Coach with Rugby Australia.
“Any coach would jump at the chance to work with the calibre of players Saints have. The squad have shown what they’re capable of earlier in the season but, for whatever reason, they have not been able to perform at that level consistently.”
As part of the short-term appointment, Gaffney will work with Mallinder’s former coaching staff, which sees Alan Dickens return to his role as attack coach alongside forwards coach Dorian West and defence coach Phil Dowson.
Having learned his trade as a player at the Sydney-based club Randwick – which went on to produce both England head coach Eddie Jones and Australia’s Michael Cheika – Gaffney earned success in both hemispheres, having cut his teeth with the New South Wales Waratahs before moving to Ireland to work with firstly Leinster as back’s coach and…