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Strongman days behind him, sword sheathed as McBryde settles in at Leinster

Warren Gatland’s long-term scrum coach is adapting to his new surroundings, but old tales continue to follow him.

ROBIN MCBRYDE ROLLS his eyes at the mention of his Wikipedia page as he sits for his first interviews since joining Leinster’s coaching ticket last month.

Clearly, he’s the type of man who can inspire his fair share of urban legends.

It says here that you were ‘born a baby,’ Robin.

Okay that seems to check out.

Born a Jones, but changed your name?  

False.

Anointed Grand Swordbearer of Wales’ ancient gathering of bards, the Gorsedd?

100% true.

Ah, here. Wales’ strongest man 1992! Good one. 

“That’s true,” says the former Swansea and Llanelli hooker.

robin-mcbryde Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

So a rural legend then. One that he is quite bashful speaking about 27 years on.

“We were pulling tractors, filling a trailer with bags of feed, running an obstacle course, climbing up a rope, tug o-war, arm wrestle, that kind of thing.”

A test of farm-strength. The beach muscle boys never stood a chance.

“It was held in the agricultural shows, it was functional strength as opposed to standing still. There were bodybuilders there and it was filmed on a really hot day. Because they had to change sets all the time, the day was long, it was six hours in the heat. By the end of the day they (the bodybuilders) were gone, they couldn’t keep it up.”

It has been quite a burden on me to be honest. I’ve disappointed many a room when they hear Wales’ strongest man, and then I walk into a room.”

As for his position as Grand Swordbearer, a role he took on from the great Ray Gravell before his death in 2007, McBryde is quick to point out that the ceremonial weapon is in fact a sword of peace.

Indeed, while the 49-year-old comes in from the backroom team of the ever-combative Warren Gatland and can’t quite shake off his title from ’92 he is no strongman leader. Rather a strong presence who is willing to collaborate and adapt.

robin-mcbryde Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s a two-way process, coaching. I’ll talk to players and they’ll come with their own views and out of those discussions we’ll decide on a plan to go forward.”

McBryde appointment in Leinster came as a replacement for John Fogarty who has crossed to the IRFU and Andy Farrell’s coaching ticket. The scrum is the Welshman’s remit. Yet bit by bit, the longer he has his feet under the table, his influence will extend out to other areas.

“It’s a different language,” he says of the new job he takes up after 12 years in charge of Wales’ forwards.

“The nature of the competitions are different, the nature of the working week is different. So there’s a lot of change going on. So they don’t want to over-burden me from day one. ‘Find your feet, focus on the scrum’.

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“There’s one or two things I’ve done in the line-out, technically, but you’ve got experienced players who have been there and done it, been around the block, I think you learn as much from them as, hopefully, they can learn from me.”

In part, McBryde’s soft treading on his new stomping ground is down to it being a ready-made successful setup. Leo Cullen’s side were already well on their way to the current 10-game winning streak when McBryde began work. So he feels the pressure to maintain the trajectory through his outsider’s viewpoint mixed with the head coach’s blue blood.

There’s a bit of pressure, but I’m here to perform as well. I’m conscious of that, I can’t be in the background all the time. I’ve to step into the breach and take some responsibility and ownership.

robin-mcbryde-with-leo-cullen Cullen and McBryde watch a training session last month. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I’m just introducing them to different ways of thinking, different ways of coaching. That’s what’s good about the nature of the coaching group with Stuart and Felipe from different backgrounds. Leo has the biggest role because everyone sees him as the figurehead of Leinster Rugby and rightly so.

“As a player, he’s come through the ranks to coach. So to have him and to be able to relate to him from a player’s and supporter’s point of view and make sure they don’t deviate too far away from what’s gone on in the past. That’s vital really.”

McBryde is certainly respectful of the history of a place. His sword and seat with the Gorsedd is testament to that.

“During the ceremony the sword is held aloft by the arch druid and he asks the question three times: ‘is there peace?’ So the scabbard comes just partly open and then it’s closed again.”

Whatever about his Wikipedia page, the man is genuine.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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