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Jan 7 (Reuters) - Former All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley has quit as head coach of Canada just two weeks after signing a contract extension that would have taken him through the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
The 54-year-old was leaving with immediate effect and would take up a post with a club in Europe, Rugby Canada said.
"We are disappointed to see Kieran leave, however, we appreciate all he has given our program over the past eight years and wish both him and his family the very best as he takes on a new challenge in Europe," said Gareth Rees, men's programme manager for Rugby Canada.
Crowley, who had been in charge since 2008 and led Canada to the 2011 and 2015 World Cup tournaments, last month signed a two-year extension that lasted until 2017, after the qualifiers for the next tournament in Japan.
Canada failed to grab an automatic qualifying berth for the 2019 World Cup after losing all four of their games at the 2015 tournament in England and finishing last in their pool.
When signing the contract extension last month, Crowley had said, "it is important for me to remain with Rugby Canada and support our team to achieve the success I know we are capable of achieving."
The Canadian women's team coach Francois Ratier will take over the men's team for the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, which starts next month, while the organisation searches for a permanent replacement.
Canada face Uruguay in Langford, British Columbia on Feb. 6 in their first match in the Championship.
"We have made significant changes to our set up and the players and coaches are excited and ready to get to work for the Canadian cause," Rees added.
"Rugby Canada is gearing up for a huge challenge leading into qualification for 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan."
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford