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'If you're winning it doesn't matter what anybody thinks'

Robin McBryde felt the barbs for Warrenball long enough to know they had to be ignored.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

SINCE BRINGING THE curtain down on his 13-year spell as Wales scrum coach at the completion of last year’s World Cup, Robin McBryde has found himself becoming detached relatively from international rugby.

Though he maintains a keen interest in the ongoing Six Nations Championship, he was a casual spectator for last Saturday week’s clash between Ireland and his fellow countrymen.

“I’m purely just watching as a fan. I probably won’t go to an international, unless I’m working at one. I stay away from it to be honest with you,” McBryde said at a Leinster media event in UCD yesterday.

“I’m a bit claustrophobic. I don’t like big crowds. I’m a bit detached where I am. I’m enjoying that role. I purely just watched it from the comfort of the sofa and just took it all in. I thought the opening exchanges were a bit cagey. Ireland settled into their strap after that really.”

Through his role as Leinster’s new scrum specialist, McBryde arguably holds a greater interest in the travails of Ireland than that of Wales these days. Both teams are currently operating under fresh regimes, with Andy Farrell and Wayne Pivac replacing Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland respectively.

Farrell has made a particularly encouraging start to his reign as Ireland head coach – back-to-back wins over Scotland and the Welsh putting them in a good spot ahead of Sunday’s visit to Twickenham.

 If they are to come out on top against Eddie Jones’ men in their own back yard, McBryde feels Ireland will need to approach the game with a steely mental resolve.

“It is belief. Belief in yourselves and the systems you’ve got. As anybody knows with England, they’ve got strength in depth, size. They’ve got money, they’ve got everything. You’ve just got to go after it, show you’re hungrier than them,” the former hooker remarked about the weekend tussle.

The initial signs point towards Farrell introducing a more creative edge to this Ireland team, with the likes of Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Robbie Henshaw all delivering strong performances in the Welsh game.

Though Schmidt delivered considerable success over the course of his six-and-a-half year tenure – three Six Nations title, including a 2018 Grand Slam – the consensus was that Ireland’s play became too predictable in the closing months of his time at the helm.

Yet McBryde stressed that his successor in the role will be judged on results above all other considerations.

“In Wales, the same things were thrown at us with regards to being predictable, and just ‘take it up the middle’ etc. Unless you’re involved in any environment, you’re always clutching at straws or guessing. Speculating as to what a team’s trying to do. As much as we were trying to change things subtly, you have to just ignore all the pressure from outside.

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“Because at the end of the day it’s all about results. It’s a winning industry, and if you’re winning it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. You have to just keep on winning. There’s so much at stake. A lot of things can just turn on fine margins during a game, especially in the Six Nations.”

Should Ireland get past the challenge of England on Sunday, the prospect of a clean sweep through this year’s tournament will begin to loom large. Having previously garnered top honours as a player under Mike Ruddock in 2005, McBryde was part of Warren Gatland’s coaching ticket for Wales’ Grand Slam triumphs of 2008, 2012 and 2019.

Although both himself and Rob Howley had an influence within the group, the Bangor man insists the New Zealander was the driving force behind these achievements.

“In fairness to Warren Gatland, he brought that belief with him. Having that Kiwi mentality. Knowing what to focus on, really, because you can fill your head with all sorts of things that have absolutely no relevance to the game at all. He could play the media game back and forth with Eddie Jones or whoever the opposition coach was.

“One of Warren’s strengths was, you’d come in on Monday morning and you were given ‘this is what we’re doing’. Bang, bang, bang. He knew exactly what counted, what we needed to be good at, to get those sort of results,” McBryde added.

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