Belfast Telegraph

European Champions Cup: Game needs think tank and new approach says Willie Anderson

By Jonathan Bradley

Former national captain Willie Anderson saw few reasons for optimism from the Irish provinces during the opening weekend of fixtures in the Champions Cup.

While his native Ulster were not in action after their game with Oyonnax was postponed in light of the Paris terror attacks, Munster laboured to a belated four-try bonus over lowly Treviso at Thomond Park while Leinster were humbled in their own backyard by Aviva Premiership outfit Wasps.

For Anderson, hot on the heels of Ireland's World Cup quarter-final exit to Argentina last month, it was another dispiriting week to follow rugby in this part of the world.

"I just think we need a fresh approach completely," he said yesterday at the Danske Bank Schools' Cup launch in his role as Sullivan Upper's first team coach.

"We need a think tank, like Australia have done, like New Zealand have done, that will get us working from the ground up.

"Ulster are in a very tricky group in Europe but what would interest me is, I'd just want to see more adventure.

"Argentina have shown how they've improved by changing the philosophy. We should too.

"I've always said that I'd love to see 15 Ulstermen representing the province, and the same for the rest, but at the minute we're not going to succeed in Europe like that.

"Those big sides like Toulon and Racing have the ability to bring in whoever they want and that's just the way things are going to be.

"If you want to compete then you need to start producing the players here and that starts at school level.

"We can't worry about the big French and English sides making big money signings, we need to start working at schools level to produce the type of players that people are now spending that money on.

"We try and coach our guys (at Sullivan Upper) to play with their heads up, general movement, exploiting the space, but in Ulster and Ireland at all levels it just seems to be about patterns.

"The problem is you need the change to come across the board.

"It's tough to convince coaches and parents of that I suppose.

"The thing about an exciting, attacking game is that you have to be prepared to fail and you would have to say that over here we aren't, even if it's for the greater good."

Of special concern to Anderson was the performance of Leinster - where he acted as assistant coach under Matt Williams in the early 2000s - at the RDS, a 33-6 loss that was deemed "unacceptable" by head coach Leo Cullen.

"Leinster are rebuilding now, there's no doubt about that after the weekend," he said.

"Wasps are a very powerful side, especially with the southern hemisphere skill level from their imports but what was disappointing was, when I was coaching down there, Leinster played at a great tempo, offloading and getting the ball wide but when they got into the 22 on Sunday there was none of that. It was just phase after phase until a mistake came.

"Now I would like to see the younger players given more of a chance. You can see that in Ireland we're behind at the moment and we may need to take a punt and bring the younger players through.

"Garry Ringrose looks like a guy that you should be building a team around. He has that creativity, it was his first touch and he was offloading.

"I just think it's OK doing 40 rucks in a row but if you're not making two metres then what's the point?"

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