The 1885 Membership Club’s James ‘Sloppy’ Heaslip spoke to some of the new Connacht Rugby coaches after they announced a new coaching structure for the 2021/22 season.
You can enjoy the podcast from which the quotes are from here.
The new coaching structure involves the move of former Defence coach Peter Wilkins to Senior Coach.
To clarify, Mr Wilkins’ new role will make him primarily responsible for Connacht’s attack.
Furthermore, Connacht Rugby has welcomed former Munster player Mossy Lawler as Assistant Attack and Skills Coach.
In addition, former Shannon and UL Bohemians boss Colm ‘Collie’ Tucker joins as Defence and Forwards Technical Skills Coach.
Wilkins, who will be the number two to Head Coach Andy Friend, explained his new role as overseeing training, devising gameplans and “essentially making sure we have that cohesion on the field.”
The incoming Senior Coach likened his position to that of an assistant manager in football.
The other two incoming coaches have also been involved in the Connacht setup for several years before joining the senior team’s coaching staff.
Mr Lawler came on board in 2015 and was involved in multiple roles in the several years since then.
Most notably, he was the Head Coach for the Connacht Eagles.
The former professional told Sloppy that “it was just a natural transition to get into coaching. [He’d] like to think [he] did it from grassroots to green shirts.”
He climbed up the ranks through roles at Árdscoil Rís and UL Bohemians to reach Connacht.
Eric Elwood hired Colm Tucker to work in the academy.
However, his route was slightly different to his first cousin Mossy Lawler.
After neck issues brought an end to his rugby career at 19, Cully started coaching at underage level in Shannon.
In time, he was promoted to Head Coach of the senior side.
Collie then moved across Limerick to UL Bohemians.
At UL Bohemians, he brought Mossy Lawlor on as the Director of Rugby and a player.
The new Defence coach talked fondly about his time coaching in the All-Ireland League.
“Coaching in AIL provided an unbelievable grounding for me to move on…it teaches you so much about time management and prioritisation.”
Tucker thinks it is brilliant for him to work with the man he is stepping in for in his first professional coaching job.
“I can consistently run things by him, and share footage, share clips, discuss clips, challenge each other. That process has already started over the last couple of months where we’ve put together philosophies and principles around how we’re going to defend, how we’re going to attack.”
The Connacht Defence Coach added that all the coaches are working hard to get themselves on the same page.
Wilkins paid tribute to his predecessors on the podcast: “Coaches give everything to the cause and at some point, they will move on. It’s important to build on the success and the good things they brought to the environment but also keep the team moving forward.”
One coach absent for the podcast was Connacht’s new forwards coach Dewald Senekal.
The South African joins Connacht Rugby from Stade Francais and comes to Galway with a lot of promise.
“He’s got that South African edge – he wants us to ply on the edge, play fairly but bring that aggression, that composed physicality to what we do”, said Peter Wilkins when asked by Sloppy about the incoming forwards coach.
Wilkins feels that Senekal will be valuable to the team.
He added that he thinks the players are excited to get to work with the 40-year-old.
The excitement about the future spreads beyond the players, as said on the podcast.
Wilkins believes that the consistency Connacht maintained away from home and their final performace showed the province’s progress under Andy Friend.
Finishing the season on a high felt important to Wilkins.
He told Sloppy that “it’s always important to finish the season with a win.
“It just changes the perspective going into an offseason, particularly when you are farewelling people who are leaving.”
Mossy Lawler also talked about the future crop of Connacht Rugby players that are yet to make the step up.
He found it rewarding to help produce the next batch of Connacht players.
Lawler sees it as recognition of the work done throughout the province.
The new Skills Coach named several players he believes fans will see make the step up in 2021/22.
Paul Ford, Shane Jennings, Donnchadh Byrne, and Oisin McCormack were given the nod by Lawler.
Connacht will only grow further thanks to their increased focus on academy products in the province.
Mossy Lawler summed up the feeling from fans and coaches alike on the podcast – “I think the future’s really bright.”