Tyrone Howe: Anscombe has ingredients for success
Rarely has a professional rugby coach had to arrive in a place with as much hype and expectation as new Ulster coach, Mark Anscombe.
Replacing a highly respected local man amidst a storm of controversy is an enormous challenge by any standard.
Achievements abounded for Brian McLaughlin, whose place is secure in Ulster rugby history and hearts based on the fact that he succeeded where many others before him failed and his grace during difficult times.
However, I believe that there are plenty of reasons why Anscombe (pictured) can be successful.
Firstly, if anyone can make it work, a Kiwi can. Steeped in rugby culture Anscombe will undoubtedly have an innate appreciation and understanding of the game.
Arguably more important, he has also inherited an exceptionally talented group of players — the strongest Ulster squad of the professional era.
Anscombe’s stated aim is consistency. It seems that this word is mentioned each season, but has remained frustratingly elusive for all his predecessors, McLaughlin included. Yet, it may truly be within reach.
Ulster is a team which is now incredibly difficult to beat.
They may not go out and play scintillating rugby every week, but the aim will be that the lowest acceptable performance is still strong enough to win repeatedly.
This is the New Zealand way — displayed by the All Blacks’ victory in the second Test in the summer against Ireland — an underpar performance, but still the right result.
But what actually constitutes success?
Should Ulster not make the Heineken Cup final is the season a failure?
I hesitate to judge a coach or players on Heineken success alone. There are so many factors at play and many excellent teams fall by the wayside despite playing high quality rugby.
Success must be measured in a balanced way with the players displaying increased maturity and ability to come out of sticky situations with victory.
Anscombe is a man on a mission and he has the team to succeed.