Friday, April 03, 2015

Can We Take This Laighin Down? (part 2)

After listening to the excellent interview on Down The Blind Side with Leinster Rugby CEO, Mick Dawson and following on my my recent two pieces Can we take this Laighin down and Insanity or a cyclical way of life in which amongst other issues at Leinster Rugby currently, I suggest that there needs to be a Root & Branch review of all aspects.

This I believe is necessary as with ANY major organisation, sporting, business, charitable etc. There needs to be a Strategic Plan, a Vision and in Leinster's case one that dovetails into the IRFU development plans on the one side and their own development from a business and brand entity at the other. The CEO does mention the plan called the “Leinster way”. I have genuinely searched online for one but cannot find it?

In the interview, which is at last great to hear his views on some issues, he does have a pragmatic approach. He highlights the Pro 12 and the case for a complete overhaul of the league incl the monetary aspects, TV rights et al i.e. it needs to be sold as a going concern that will keep the interest, the money, the TV rights and the fans enthralled as much at the English Premiership and French Top 14 have managed to do. That’s the right move and we need to stay with what we have currently in the Pro 12 and yes it is slightly fairer now and more merit driven but there’s still a way to go.

The issue of a British & Irish League is split. I believe he is right that many English Premiership Chairman would welcome the opportunity to play alongside Irish Provinces, there are however the few who are controlling the interests at the top for a select few clubs. Likewise the B and I Cup has been successful and shows that it’s possible? Who knows?

Perhaps I’m naive in wishing there to be a wider solution and that the issues with Welsh, Scottish and Italian rugby can be improved. Likewise, the development of a second tier of European rugby i.e. a Pro 12 Div 2 and a feeder competition in the European sphere i.e. the promised 3rd European competition but that’s just me. I like to see everyone given the same opportunities and not allow money to become THE controlling influence in the game. RC Toulon, the rising of the salary cap and the fact that the English premiership rewards teams with additional basic funds the longer they stay in the Premiership so the likes of London Welsh suffer? Equality or forced control?

Mick Dawson also raises the issues that they all accept incl MO’C over leadership, but to blame it on losing ALL your key players to the internationals doesn’t fit? Part of your contingency and continuity plan is to accept that IF repeat IF Leinster Rugby remain as the top flight team, then we are always going to lose over half the senior team to “Saint” Joe and that’s a great advert for the Province, the brand, the players & the fans HOWEVER, what’s the Plan B? Leadership starts from the top. It starts with the board down through the coaching staff and then with the players.  Again in my previous pieces I have questioned whether Jamie H is right to take all the pressure. Should there be a club captain? A match day captain and then a forwards and backs leader. If your matchday captain is a forward e.g. Jamie H, then who is controlling the backs? Who has the vision to adapt on the park when things aren’t going to plan? It’s difficult for a forward with his head buried deep into the scrum to do that. Now Sexton has this role. Perhaps he’ll naturally do this when he returns but who does it now? I see Jimmy Gopperth doing a lot of talking on the park so is it correct that it is the 10 as the playmaker who should also De Facto be the backs leader?

Bottom line is all these points MUST be part of your plan for when you are full strength and when you lose a large number of key players. Let’s face it, if it is going to happen same time, every year, why wouldn’t you have a strong plan in place to deal with it? It’s exactly the same as when it snows in UK. They know it’s likely to happen at some point each year but they never seem to have a continuity plan in place and so the country comes to an abrupt halt?

On the movement of players, the CEO confirmed that Isa Nacewa is potentially on the cards to return. Is he the only change in playing staff? Hopefully we will hear in the next 2 weeks and yes it’s always going to be difficult to strengthen a squad under the confines of the IRFU stance on overseas players but this year we haven’t seen a large use of the excellent plethora of youngsters that perhaps we saw last season especially during the 6 Nations period.

I believe that post RWC 15 and the numbers of top world players that will flood into Europe, unless the likes of Leinster can find a way to seek more players, Mr Dawson is right that there’s potential for us to get left behind. He doesn’t unfortunately expand on what plans are in place outwith of the Pro 12 re-branding and getting the TV companies to come in and pay large wonga and how long do we keep hold of our up and coming youngsters when the English & French clubs come in offering large amounts of money to play in hugely potential champion winning teams? What affects at grass roots could eventually affect the national side?

So where does it leave us. Great to hear the CEO talking about issues, hugely pragmatic and I suspect internally there’s lots going on but regular communication needs to be forthcoming. People can and do take news even bad news in their stride. What frustrates fans is like when things are not going well on the park, if you don’t adapt and change your players and plays, then  questions will be asked. It’s only right that those who pay towards the clubs in tickets, shirts, other get those answers.

As an aside in this episode of Peter O'Reilly & Brendan Fanning's podcast, the boys talk to Bath Coach Mike Ford the ex Ireland defensive coach who discusses the attacking aspect of the “ Rugby League” involvement with both players coming in and the coaches as well but that it’s been mainly a defensive approach (MO’C and Leinster a prime example) but how they (Bath) have been training with Wigan Rugby League and they’ve focused on the attacking aspects and that’s what has upped the Bath Rugby game and of course in turn has made them the most improved club throughout the 2nd half of the English Premiership season. I’d hate to reiterate that my points previously that whilst  "Hybrid" rugby is here to stay it’s not the current defensive version under MO’C but the open attacking game we need to look at. Leinster were playing this style of rugby under Cheika / Schmidt long before it was titled such! Perhaps there’s a plan to work on that? Results speak for themselves.

The Big Fella

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at Digital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)
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