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# pack leaders
Planning and prep paves the way for new forwards coaches in Munster and Leinster
The World Cup delayed the arrival of Rowntree and McBryde, but communication has been ongoing.

THE OBVIOUS DISRUPTIONS brought by a World Cup year take the form of the uprooted fixture list and the wholesale removal of a team’s most recognisable talent during for the first quarter of the season.

The nature of rugby’s four-year cycle also means that many of the best and brightest coaches are called to lend their IP to international rugby, either on a short-term basis or as the end point of a much larger project.

The crossover often leaves something of a short-fall in the club game. Both Leinster and Munster have welcomed experienced new scrum and forwards coaches through the doors in recent weeks.

After Georgia exited at the pool stage, Graham Rowntree moved to take up the vacancy left by Jerry Flannery. With John Fogarty slipping into an IRFU tracksuit to become the national academy forwards coach, Leinster brought in Robin McBryde as Warren Gatland’s backroom team dispersed from Wales.

Rowntree, of course, is one half of the new faces in the coach’s box in Munster. Steven Larkham’s arrival in the summer is already bearing fruit in the back-line. Because the English coach arrived with the season already under way and tweaks in the pack always taking a more subtle form, his efforts on the training ground will take a little longer to definitively show a pay-off. But he has been working to ensure he is up to speed with Munster’s pack long before he landed in UL.

johann-van-graan-with-graham-rowntree Bryan Keane / INPHO Van Graan and Rowntree on their way to training this week. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“It all comes down to planning,” said Johann van Graan last week. “We as a coaching group said ‘we’ve got to get as a four first’ and it takes some time.

“So we said we’ll take it one day at a time, focus on what we’ve been doing well. Because we’ve been doing a lot of things well over the past two or three seasons – we need to improve but let each guy find his feet, be open with the squad.

“I think there’s been enjoyment and real growth in some of the detail.”

Van Graan goes on to stress that they are pushing for continuity, building on the pack processes that went before rather than tearing anything up. In Leinster, there is a similar sense of preparation and evolution-over-revolution as Seamus Toomey has been working with the senior squad for the early part of the season before the new pack leader arrived to work on Monday.

robin-mcbryde-with-leo-cullen Morgan Treacy / INPHO Cullen and McBryde at Donnybrook on Monday. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

One can only imagine how difficult the past month has been for McBryde, whose mother Diana died in the week leading up to Wales’ quarter-final win over France. Starting with Leinster on Champions Cup week will be easy by comparison.

“Robyn has been on the phone all of the time,” Leo Cullen explained on Friday. 

“He is very respectful of the work that has gone on. He has got so much experience as well. He is used to this period where players just land in on him and he has to get ready for a game.

He is used to that in international rugby, which is kind of what we are getting ready for now. Players are landing into us and it’s not far off an international type game.”

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“He met a number of players towards the end of last season, just in and around the process of him coming in, in the first place.

“He has even been in communication with a couple of our guys, just to get an understanding of what is going on. He gets the footage of training and all the bits of the games.”

The disruptions and distractions of Japan are behind us all now and it’s full steam ahead into the Heineken Champions Cup.

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