feel the rhythm

McNamara preparing U20s to hit the ground running in Cork

The U20 boss relishes the cycle of tournament rugby, and his side will work to keep England from settling into any sort of flow.

IRELAND U20 HEAD coach Noel McNamara is relishing the rhythm that comes with tournament rugby.

Noel McNamara Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ireland U20 head coach Noel McNamara. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s age grade men will take on England in Musgrave Park this Friday (kick-off 19.15) to kick off their Six Nations campaign and McNamara will hope to see the benefit of a rare concentrated spell to work with a group that – by definition – comes with a revolving door.

Last week, he had his squad together for a four-day camp in Cork. A welcome change from the usual cycle of, “come together for a day-and-a-half, they go back to their provinces, back to their clubs or play in the AIL”

However, McNamara feels he is continually learning how best to put those windows of limited time to maximum use.

“Really, it’s over the whole season you measure the impact and the change of habit you can bring about in that space of time,” says the Clare man and former Clongowes coach.

“It’s all about prioritising, isn’t it. Identifying areas that can have the most impact,” he adds when asked about his own growth as he embarks on his second Six Nations.

“The more experienced you are, the more you learn how to prioritise, the more you recognise the things that are important. Certain things are constant and true all the way through, but there are probably things I’ll look back on that I invested a lot of energy in and didn’t have the impact I anticipated.”

JJ McKee celebrates winning with teammates Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Ireland U20s celebrate a win over Leinster. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

His time in New Zealand won’t fall into that category. McNamara enjoyed his time working as defence coach with North Harbour because of the league format which makes for a continuous regeneration of issues, information and variables. He’s speaking after coming in from the cold of a Leinster Senior Cup match in Donnybrook and has sympathy with a losing side who have just spent ‘six months preparing for one game’.

“Working with North Harbour, you’re going week-to-week and you have a game, the next game and the next game…

“I loved the immediacy of it all. Preparing for a game, Monday-Tuesday is the main focus area. Down day Wednesday, Thursday is captain’s run and then you start to look at the team you’re playing next week. By the time the game kicks off, you’ve most of the body of work done for the next week’s work.

“It’s great to get into that review-preview and, I suppose, if you don’t get something right the immediate opportunity to fix it.

“It’s one of the great things about the Six Nations, the opportunity to go week-to-week, to get better in the areas you weren’t quite as good as you needed to be and see if you can drive on in some areas you were.”

Noel McNamara on a three-month coaching placement with North Harbour Photosport / Anthony Au-Yeung/INPHO McNamara in North Harbour colours last year. Photosport / Anthony Au-Yeung/INPHO / Anthony Au-Yeung/INPHO

Five matches in seven weeks carries some of the same feeling, but it is also a tournament which can quickly take the wind out of a team who put in back-to-back poor performances. With England first up in Musgrave on Friday, Ireland will have to bring all the synergy and energy they can muster in their limited time together.

“(They are) quite tight as a group and there’s absolutely no question that the boys are going to go to the well for each other.

“I think for us it’s about utilising that cohesion, utilising the fact that we’re at home with a home crowd. Looking to start fast and putting them under pressure. Trying to take them to a place where they’re uncomfortable. Not playing the game on their terms.

“Any English that you get into an arm wrestle and it’s set-piece dominated, it’s not really a place you want to be. Certainly that’s not a place that we want to be on Friday night. That will be the main thing for us, I’m excited about looking at who we have in our team.

“The focus really is on us.

“In many ways the first game is great because there’s no footage to look at. There’s not a lot really to go on. They’ve got a new coaching team from last year. We’ve had a look at some of their threats. We’ve had a look at some of their trends from previous teams, but really the focus is on ourselves and looking to deliver the best possible product that we can.”

McNamara’s ranks will be bolstered by Leinster’s breakthrough talent this season, Scott Penny, who missed out on last week’s camp as he was instead preparing to start against last year’s Pro14 finalists.

His fellow ex-St Michael’s forward Ryan Baird will miss out on the clash however, after picking up an injury during the training camp.


Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel