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McBryde cites Springboks' success as vindication of player welfare programme

The Leinster assistant coach is an advocate of the IRFU policy which has forced provinces to rotate personnel.

Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde during the pre-match press conference ahead of their clash with Connacht.
Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde during the pre-match press conference ahead of their clash with Connacht.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LEINSTER ASSISTANT COACH Robin McBryde has offered a ringing endorsement of the player welfare programme operated by the IRFU.

With Ireland’s returning World Cup stars required to take two consecutive weeks off during the festive period under the terms of the policy, there has been significant squad rotation in all four provinces — exemplified by the Leinster and Munster selections for last Saturday’s showdown at Thomond Park.

Out of the 26 players across both sides that featured under Joe Schmidt in Japan, just four received game-time in Limerick. Although a handful of these were sidelined through injury, there was some disappointment raised at the absence of so many frontline internationals.

Nevertheless, McBryde feels South Africa’s recent capture of the Webb Ellis Cup showcased the importance of rotation in the modern game.

“I think it’s fair across the board for the four regions. Everyone knows what the situation is. The question was raised in the early press conference about how few injuries we’ve got. I think that’s because we’ve got rotation of players. No player has been asked too much of. Otherwise you start breaking down,” McBryde explained.

“That’s one of the reasons why South Africa were successful in the World Cup. They had a good rotation system. They had six forwards on the bench, they kept rotating those forwards in the big games. When you’ve got quality in depth, why don’t you choose to use it? You’ve got to look to the future. You look at the quality that is coming through the academy in Leinster, the future is looking rosy.”

Despite the consistent tweaking of their starting line-ups and match-day squads, Leinster remain unbeaten in the 2019/20 season. Nine consecutive victories have seen them open up an 11-point gap at the summit of the Guinness Pro14 Conference A table, while they have comfortably qualified for the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup with four pool wins on the bounce.

A total of six players have been handed debuts in the midst of this winning sequence, and McBryde — speaking ahead of Connacht’s visit to the RDS on Saturday — said it’s important for each newcomer to maintain a strong legacy for future generations.

leinsters-rowan-osborne-is-tackled-by-munsters-billy-holland Rowan Osborne on the attack during Leinster's win over Munster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“The first thing is that you would never put them on that stage if you didn’t feel they could cope with that amount of pressure. What Leo [Cullen] does at the end of the game is to ask someone who has played for the first time, ‘what was your experience like?’

“It’s just brilliant that they’re fresh off the field and, bang, ‘this is what I felt’. It’s here everywhere, ‘Driving the Legacy’. That’s what we’re doing, we’re driving the legacy.”

Of the sextet that have made their bows in the current campaign, five are members of the province’s much-vaunted academy. The odd-one-out in this group is scrum-half Rowan Osborne, who was recruited from All-Ireland League outfit Dublin University (Trinity) ahead of the new season.

Following a brace of appearances off the bench in October clashes against Ospreys and Edinburgh (he bagged a try in the latter), the former Clongowes Wood College student earned a contract with the eastern province.

After illness ruled Jamison Gibson-Park out of the Munster game at the 11th hour, Osborne was thrust into the starting 15 and produced an accomplished performance alongside Ross Byrne in a 13-6 victory for the visitors.

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Having witnessed successful transitions from domestic club rugby to the professional grade in his native Wales, McBryde feels it is an avenue worth exploring for the Irish provinces.

“I’ve had that experience from a Welsh point of view. Your first two choices are injured and all of a sudden you have to look elsewhere. More often than not you will uncover an absolute diamond. I think there’s always those players out there who will catch the eye and will continue to impress people once they’re given the opportunity.

“There are a number of youngsters I know in Wales, just from my own background, given the opportunity and they’ve taken it. There are a number of other youngsters as well who, if they were given the opportunity, I’ve got no doubt in my mind that they would take it as well. It should be the same in Ireland,” McBryde added.

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