“There’s a mun­ster way but rugby’s moved on”

Rugby World - - Straight Feed -

kNOw LE­iN­stER and Con­nacht have been suc­cess­ful in re­cent years, but when i played in the Nineties it was all Mun­ster, so when the job came up this sum­mer it was per­fect tim­ing.

My en­tire rugby ca­reer has been based around my fam­ily. i had my twins in the year i stopped play­ing, spent a few years at the storm­ers be­fore they went to school, and spent five happy years with the south African Rugby Union.

with sec­ondary school the next step for my boys and my daugh­ter at pri­mary school, my wife and i thought if we wanted a rugby ad­ven­ture it had to be now. My CEO at sARU was very sup­port­ive. i knew ire­land had a fan­tas­tic rep­u­ta­tion for the stan­dard of life and warmth of the peo­ple, and we haven’t been dis­ap­pointed. i feel set­tled al­ready.

i’ve been given ad­vice by so many who played in the glory years. From Axel (An­thony Fo­ley) to Jerry Flan­nery, they’ve been will­ing with their time. then there’s Paul O’Con­nell, who i sat with to get his views on the province. Felix Jones, our tech­ni­cal coach, helps with con­ti­nu­ity.

we don’t want to lose the soul of Mun­ster, but on the flip­side we have to try new things. i think it was Al­bert Ein­stein who said: “if you al­ways do what you al­ways did, you will al­ways get what you al­ways got”, and that’s true here. there’s a Mun­ster way, which has been in­te­gral to their success, but rugby has moved on. there are be­hav­iours we need to in­ter­ro­gate as a group, even if the process is un­com­fort­able. if it still works then fine, we’ll keep it in, but if it’s some­thing that must be ad­dressed we’ll do that.

we spent a lot of time pre-season work­ing on the set-piece, which is very im­por­tant to us. there’s not a com­pe­ti­tion in the world where it doesn’t form the foun­da­tion of a suc­cess­ful side, but it’s some­thing that’s a con­stant work-on. im­prove­ment won’t come overnight and i’m sure the sup­port­ers of this club will recog­nise that.

As far as my man­age­ment style goes, i be­lieve you have to let play­ers play. they need feed­back but in time i’d like to get all the play­ers to think like coaches. if they can think like coaches and play in­tel­li­gently and pas­sion­ately, even bet­ter.

there’s no lack of ex­pe­ri­ence at Mun­ster. we al­ready have a strong lead­er­ship group with keith Earls, Peter O’Ma­hony and Conor Mur­ray and there is a huge tal­ent pool com­ing through. Dar­ren sweet­nam has im­pressed me and there

iare so many ta­lented academy boys; play­ers with X-fac­tor, like stephen Fitzger­ald and Dan Gog­gin. we handed out 12 new caps in pre-season and they’re right up there with the play­ers i’ve coached through my ca­reer. You can’t put too much pres­sure on the young­sters, we don’t want them to lose their per­son­al­ity. You can’t put a 30-year-old head on a 21-year-old’s body. Paul O’Con­nell un­der­stands that. Paul was 18 once and grew into the player he was. His men­tor­ship has been fan­tas­tic.

Another change is Jac­ques Nien­aber join­ing as de­fence coach. we were in the mil­i­tary to­gether back in the early Nineties, so we go back a long way. He was my physio as a player and fol­lowed me to the storm­ers and sARU. He’s al­ways been suc­cess­ful be­cause he’s so driven.

we’ll need peo­ple like that go­ing into Europe and i know it has formed Mun­ster’s DNA. it’s a tough pool with Rac­ing, Glas­gow and Le­ices­ter to play but i’ve been used to super Rugby and the Rugby Cham­pi­onship and it has the same white lines and 15 play­ers on both teams, so we won’t be over­awed. Le­ices­ter beat us twice last season and they’ve added JP Pietersen, who i know well. then you have last season’s beaten fi­nal­ists with Ro­nan O’Gara, who knows our ins and outs, and Glas­gow, who are do­ing great things.

we must be mind­ful not to lose fo­cus in the Pro12, which is im­por­tant. it was nervy last season but we made it through and have to take some­thing from deal­ing with pres­sure. the season prom­ises to be very in­ter­est­ing.

Young ruckus Mun­ster U19 con­test a li­ne­out against Ul­ster

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