The Offload: Time to listen to Cantwell, Briggs and Coughlan

Zebo’s character, as much as his rare talent, makes him a boon for any organisation

Asking why?

There are good reasons why Munster have failed to win a European title since 2008. Just like clear reasoning exists to explain why France thumped Ireland on Saturday in the Women's Six Nations. There is no exact moment, but along the journey a disconnect was allowed to fester until it stymied progress.

The Irish team that endeavoured to align how women's rugby was seen by the public and treated behind closed doors failed in their hugely ambitious task. Claire Molloy is the only survivor from the heady days of a Grand Slam, two Six Nations championships in three seasons and the fourth place finish at the 2014 World Cup.

Perhaps the presence of that highly intelligent group in the media is how lasting change can happen. As much as the sight of Béibhinn Parsons, Dorothy Wall and Eve Higgins offers raw talent to build around, the real growth during this period might come from paying heed to what Lynne Cantwell, Niamh Briggs and Fiona Coghlan are saying.

“From a growth mentality and from a woman’s mentality what we find from a coaching research point of view is that women like to be involved in decision making processes,” Cantwell told The Second Captains before laughing into the next line, “and I am sure with your girlfriends and wives you will probably experience that as well, and they like to have a good chat and they like to say ‘why?’


“So for women’s sport that is the research I am trying to bring to it; can we encourage an environment whereby coaches coach like that and actually ask ‘where is the space?’ or ‘why are we kicking against a team that can counter attack?’”

Of all the male coaches this column has interviewed about coaching women, bar one, they agreed that many of the methods used to develop boys and men are ineffective with girls and women. Why? Because they ask why.

Cantwell is overseeing the development of the Springboks women while Sophie Spence is rolling a massive rock up the Welsh hill but until their generation can become established coaches inside the Irish system, we have Coghlan and Briggs on RTÉ patiently explaining what is really happening.

Vaccines for rugby players . . .

Word to the wise for Munster and Leinster players on media duties ahead of the Rainbow Cup extravaganza: watch out for the question about Lions players getting the vaccine. The wording will be around you or your teammates jumping the queue via the UK backdoor.

The Beacon Hospital and St Gerard’s School may form part of a follow up question. Someone will wonder whether Irish athletes should be vaccinated ahead of their parents or people with underlying conditions.

Warren Gatland created this narrative.

“We’ve got to be conscious not to be seen to be getting special treatment,” said the British and Irish Lions head coach last week, “but these are special times and circumstances.”

Gatland added: “The UK has done an unbelievable job in their vaccination programme. I’ve been lucky enough to have my first vaccination a few weeks ago.”

Unbelievable indeed, says the entire population of Africa. Despite returning to New Zealand to coach the Chiefs in 2020, Gatland is presumably still a resident in the UK and therefore able to get sorted to stare down the bigger, meaner Springbok variant.

In a perfect world our teachers would be vaccinated by now and our Olympians would get the jab but, as we have learned to our cost this past year, Irish politicians have no interest in a utopian society.  Anyway, just a heads up, have your straight-bat answer ready for the week of vaccination questions is upon us.

By the numbers 

8 – France score tries at will to pulverise Ireland in the battle of Donnybrook.

Word of mouth  

“This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.” Munster note that the IRFU are helping to pay Simon Zebo next season.

“Establish the Women’s All Ireland League as a sustainable high performance competition.” Women in Rugby Action Plan 2018-2023

“It is not going to be quick and not going to be cheap.”

Former Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan on what needs to happen around semi-professionalism of female rugby.

“It’s still not too late to not do this.”

Saoirse McHugh pleads with Claire Byrne Live about giving Eddie O'Sullivan yet another political platform on national television (she was ignored).

Zebo is good for business

Perhaps Simon Zebo is passed his sell by date. We doubt it, but perhaps his creative streak for Racing 92 during last year's Champions Cup run was a mirage. Only time will tell but following on from the disastrous communication around Munster signing Jason Jenkins while stating they cannot afford to keep a few local lads, this has been a better week in the Irish rugby echo-system.

Referencing the murky waters of the contract being "co-funded" by head office sounded like a reaction to criticism, but nonetheless good business is the sight of Ian Costello returning from England to take over the academy and Zebo's homecoming to stop arch enemy Keith Earls from snatching Munster's try scoring record.

Who knows, Zebo, Hugo Keenan and Jacob Stockdale could form the magic triangle Ireland never knew they needed.

Zebo’s character, as much as his rare talent, makes him a boon for any organisation but the long term investment in Costello, returning after five years with Nottingham and Wasps, should reap lasting rewards.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent