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'I missed being on the grass, the day-to-day coaching, and the challenge'

Noel McNamara is thriving in his new role with the Sharks after joining from Leinster.

McNamara is now working with the Sharks.
McNamara is now working with the Sharks.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Oct 26th 2021, 8:03 PM

THE LATEST STEP in Noel McNamara’s intriguing coaching journey has seen the Clare man appointed attack coach for the Sharks in South Africa.

McNamara joined the Durban-based club from his role as Leinster’s academy manager, having also helped the Ireland U20s to a Grand Slam in 2019.

McNamara spoke to Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – a podcast available to members of The42 every week – to discuss the move and his new challenge in South Africa.

He explained why it was the right time for him to leave Leinster.

“When I finished with the 20s, I didn’t really have a plan,” said McNamara. “I loved my time with the 20s and it was one of the purest forms of rugby that you can be involved in.

“I just missed it, it’s as simple as that. I missed being on the grass, I missed the day-to-day coaching, I missed the challenge, I missed working with a team.

“I’ve been very lucky at Leinster. I first coached with Leinster in 2011 but full-time since 2015, so that was five years. Whilst the challenge of being academy manager was brilliant, it was a different type of a challenge.

“Once it became clear that the senior coaching staff in Leinster was going to stay on, I started to just look at what was out there. I spoke to an agent in New Zealand, Duncan Sandlant, who works for the coaches.

“I spoke to the people that I respect in the game – the likes of Leo Cullen, Stuart Lancaster, David Nucifora, and Joe Schmidt are some of the people I spoke to. The link really came through David Nucifora from there, he spoke to a few people and this opportunity came up.

“It all happened very quickly. I’ve got a pretty resilient wife, so I spoke to Sinead and we viewed it as a fantastic adventure and a fantastic opportunity.”

sean-everitt-with-noel-mcnamara Sharks head coach Sean Everitt with McNamara. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

McNamara had already coached abroad during a short spell with North Harbour in New Zealand, but South Africa had an appeal due to its time zone being just an hour ahead of Ireland’s.

“We lived in New Zealand for a short period of time with North Harbour and it was challenging around just for Sinead and the kids talking to family and friends, it was such a small window – you’ve literally got an hour in the morning or evening and if you miss that, that’s it.

“We always wanted to experience a different lifestyle and that’s for the kids too.”

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McNamara spoke to Felix Jones, the former Munster man who is now part of the Springboks set-ups, about the opportunity, while also getting in touch with Allen Temple-Jones, who moved from the IRFU to his role as the Sharks’ athletic manager earlier this year, before making his final decision to leave Ireland.

“The Sharks are a pretty widely recognised global franchise and team, and it’s a pretty exciting time for them,” said McNamara.

“Obviously, they’ve got new owners and have signed some pretty exciting players so the opportunity to become part of that.

“It felt like the right club and the right opportunity. You make a decision and back it.”

McNamara outlined the challenges of going from Leinster into South African rugby, the players’ approach to analysis, how he has adapted his philosophy on the game, and the exciting squad he’s working with in Durban.

This episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra also involved Eoin and Murray reflecting on Connacht’s excellent win over Ulster last weekend, Leinster’s impressive performance against Glasgow, and Munster’s woes versus the Ospreys.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other shows on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting weekly newsletters and access to our lively member-only Whatsapp groups.

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