Saturday 22 October 2016

Coach pays the price as Blues fail to hit mark

When news broke earlier today that Leinster Coach Matt O Connor was parting ways with his employers it was probably the worst kept secret in Irish rugby.

Despite some proactive player rallying and media spin that all was "well in the Leinster camp" mutterings and rumours outside the group told a very different story. In these cases the standard party line is always rolled out - the coach and Leinster parted by mutual consent,

We will never know what goes on behind the closed doors in the corridors of power in the IRFU but in the end the results still stand, O'Connor is gone and Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen assumes the uncomfortable mantle of interim head coach, albeit in a season that is already over and with a lot of the off-season signings already completed.

When most coaches take over a new role they use the well heeled cliché that if "they leave the club in a better position that they found it then that can be deemed a success" and despite Matt O Conner delivering a Pro 12 Title and getting his team to the quarter-finals of the European Cup, his tenure at Leinster will be viewed by many as fairly unspectacular.

Maybe expectation In Leinster rugby remains too high, especially in the wake of French bulging pockets and the loss of some of key playmakers Jonny Sexton, Brian O'Driscoll and Isa Nacewa.

But O'Connor knew what he was taking on. Sport is cruel sometimes and operates on very small margins. Had Leinster beaten Toulon, and in many ways they should have, then this would not be happening.

In the end, despite a horrendous run of injuries, O'Connor has paid the price for some pretty spasmodic form in this year's Pro 12, despite having world class players at his disposal.

His failure to keep his team alive in the Pro 12 by selecting a weakened team in Wales didn't help but the damage was already done at that stage.

The search for a new coach will start in a World Cup year, but I know for a fact that it is a role that many Southern Hemisphere coaches will relish. The list of CVs will be long.

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