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Ulster must make right coaching changes, says legend Colin Patterson

Kiss will need players to buy into his planned new set-up

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 13/01/2017

Colin Patterson:
Colin Patterson: "I'd think Les (Kiss) will look to the south to bring someone in, from Australia, South Africa or New Zealand."

Ulster, Ireland and Lions legend Colin Patterson believes Les Kiss must think long and hard about any additions to his coaching team as he plans a major shake-up.

As revealed in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, Ulster director of rugby Kiss has been reviewing the current set-up, and indeed potential new coaching candidates have already been sounded out, with both head coach Neil Doak and forwards coach Allen Clarke out of contract at the end of this season.

Patterson, who expects Kiss to look towards the southern hemisphere for any recruits, stresses that the value of new voices can be monumental on the training ground, as long as they quickly gain the respect of the playing squad.

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"I've no axe to grind or anything like that, so this isn't saying that everyone there should be cast out the window, but in my experience the value of picking up little bits and pieces from different people is hugely important," said the man who toured South Africa with the Lions in 1980.

"I'd think Les will look to the south to bring someone in, from Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. You have to have that special bond with your coaches, have that trust in them, that you know what they're saying is coming from a high enough table that it's worth listening too.

"I was very lucky to come across plenty of excellent coaches during my career and could always pick up three or four bits and then see what worked in my game. When it does, it makes a big difference.

"But it's just the same as in business. If you try to evoke change, but it's through someone who doesn't have the right gravitas or is too lightweight, you may as well not bother.

"I remember being at Instonians when Andy Leslie (former All Black No.8) came to coach the forwards for a session. As a back, I didn't know what they were doing but next time out we were 10 per cent better. That's the difference it can make."

Patterson adds that no matter who Kiss adds to his staff, the onus will still remain with the players.

"The senior players still have to drive things, no matter who the coaches are," he said.

"Coaches can make a big difference to players, as long as the ability is there which I think it is, but the big players still have to show the way in training.

"It's just like at Man United, when Eric Cantona arrived you heard the stories of the squad thinking they were doing enough, then seeing him in training and then realising how much harder they had to work if they were going to get to the top."

Thoughts on the coaching team are not the only aspect of next season's planning already well under way with further reports yesterday identifying South African back-rower Arno Botha and Connacht scrum-half John Cooney as being close to finalising their moves to the province.

Furthermore, Ulster have already retained much of their indigenous talent on extended contracts, a task in itself given the money on offer even to second tier talent in the Aviva Premiership.

Kiss, without commenting on the imminent arrivals, hailed the work of Operations Manager Bryn Cunningham.

"It's handy to have someone with Bryn's experience, without a doubt," he said.

"You need a good right hand man, and he's a good right hand man.

"You want something done in that area he's on the money and that's a big plus for us.

"The challenges are coming thick and fast in a lot of ways. You always have pressure from the outside in terms of players being looked at and attempted to be poached.

"We're a big target because players can be attracted by the big money in France, but we're holding strong.

"The boys do love it here and hopefully we can continue to keep it that way. But having the wisdom and smarts of Bryn has helped massively for sure."

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