Belfast Telegraph

Heineken Cup: Replacing McLaughlin the right move for Ulster Rugby, says Humphreys

By Steven Beacom

David Humphreys has insisted he has no regrets about the decision to remove Brian McLaughlin as coach at the end of the season.

And this even though Ulster, under McLaughlin, are now just two matches away from becoming European champions.

Humphreys was the subject of criticism earlier this year when it was revealed Kiwi Mark Anscombe was taking over from McLaughlin who, from the summer, will oversee the coaching of youngsters at the Academy.

Two months on, Ulster's Director of Rugby says: “We made a decision in the best interests of Ulster Rugby. As we said at the time this was part of a plan we put together. The plan was clear that at some point Brian McLaughlin was going into the Academy and that it would be done at the right time for us in terms of our restructuring process.

“The decision was made that our Academy was the most important part of this organisation going forward.

“History will be the judge if it is the right decision but not history in the next two or three years. It will be in 10 years time, when if Ulster have two teams out on the pitch capable of competing at the top level that will be because of the work Brian has done along with Gary Longwell and all the other people we are putting into our Academy.

“Whenever I walk away from Ulster I want to do it knowing that I have left a very strong legacy. If we win the Heineken Cup this year that will be magnificent but we also want to make sure that in 10 or 20 years we are watching an Ulster team that are competing at the top of the pile. I don't have regrets about trying to achieve that,” added Humphreys.

Asked if the decision to axe the popular McLaughlin was ruthless, Humphreys replied: “We sat down with Brian and talked about moving forward. He had the opportunity to go back to school (RBAI, where he was head of PE) but chose to continue in professional rugby and we wanted to give him the chance to do that and that is why this long-term Academy role was agreed at that stage.

“For us it wasn't a ruthless decision. It was a decision that gave him as head coach more job security than any other head coach in the world so we thought it was a very fair offer.

“Of course when you see how the team has played to reach the European Cup semi-final people, without knowing the background to the situation and all the facts, can question the decision and as supporters that is their right.

“I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, but at the same time I am confident and comfortable with the fact that we made the decision for the right reasons and in the best interests of Ulster Rugby.”

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