Belfast Telegraph

Lancaster bringing on new leaders

 

Different voice: Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster
Different voice: Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

It is not uncommon to hear recently retired professional rugby players speak about how quiet the dressing-room they've left has become over time.

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In the mind's eye, it is a world of big speeches and bristling energy, but even as early as 2014 the man responsible for one of the more memorable addresses in recent history, Paul O'Connell, spoke about the change in the environment.

"It's embarrassing really, and the dressing rooms are less like that now," he said, reflecting on his 'Fear of God' speech.

"Dressing rooms are a lot quieter now. The way rugby has gone, a lot of it is about looking after your own job. You make sure you prepare to the best of your ability. You look after your own job as physically as you can and with as much intensity as you can. Back then, there was a certain leadership group that had to prepare the team and drive on the team. That has faded a little bit."

O'Connell was speaking before facing England and, five years on, their coach that day is trying to help a new generation of Irish leaders find their voice.

With their supply of ready-made young professionals coming through the schools system, Leinster are the envy of Europe right now, but Stuart Lancaster has noticed that quietness that O'Connell referenced and is working on bringing out the players' voice to ensure the next generation is ready to lead.

When he speaks about studious players who throw themselves into video analysis and who thrive on detail, the likes of Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and Luke McGrath come to mind.

Pivotal figures for the future of the province and increasingly important internationals, the ex-England coach wants to coax out more of their personalties.

"I wouldn't have said it in a podcast if I didn't think it was important," he said of his recent Leader's Questions, where he addressed the topic.

"There are so many different personality types. What I found over here is a lot of the players are quiet, they are detail orientated.

"They are very respectful of coaches and what they say and everything else, which is great, great qualities, but equally they need to be leaders on the field.

"So, sometimes, you got to push this person, who is traditionally quiet, reserved and quite quiet, to be more vocal."

"There is nothing worse than a coach saying to an introvert I want you to give an opinion but you immediately knock them down for giving it. In which case they will never give it again.

"From my point of view we are trying to grow the leadership within the organisation and in the team, mainly because the top end players, I mean, Johnny (Sexton) is not an introverted person. Sean O'Brien was not an introvert.

"It's the next generation. It's your James Ryans, your Garrys, your Robbies (Henshaw) and Lukey are people we are trying to grow. If you can see the growth of them in team meetings and how they own the team, that's what the best teams have."

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