A Munster coaching role for O'Sullivan would be a marriage of convenience for both parties
Published 14/05/2014 | 11:47
With Eddie O’Sullivan in the running to become the new Munster backs coach, it would mark a welcome return to top-class rugby for the decorated Corkman.
O'Sullivan has emerged as the favourite to replace Simon Mannix in the new backroom team, with interviews held this week for both backs and forwards coaching positions under incoming coach Anthony Foley.
Since he left his post as American head coach following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, O’Sullivan has struggled to find employment outside media work.
His recent involvement with Garryowen couldn’t prevent their first ever relegation – O’Sullivan arrived mid-way through the campaign – and was recently chosen coach a US-based National Rugby Football League (NRFL) team against a European side in the two-legged ‘The Independence Cup’ this July.
However for a man who led Ireland to a Triple Crown at U-21 level and followed this with a three more at senior level – agonisingly losing the 2007 championship on points difference – it is a sad indictment on Irish rugby that he has been shunned for so many roles.
The IRFU have shown reluctance to get O’Sullivan back into the game, a curse that has been set upon other managers of the national side, while Connacht’s failure to even interview the 55 year-old when Eric Elwood left the Sportsground last summer raised many eyebrows.
His departure from the west during his first stint was mooted as one of the reasons for the snub, but it was hard to fathom how a man with three World Cups under his belt could not have been utilised in some capacity.
A highly respected coach, his man-management has been questioned by some. Geordan Murphy was particularly scathing in his autobiography over O’Sullivan’s rigid tactics and inability to communicate effectively with his players. His catch-phrases have been popularly used by Apres Match and Mario Rosenstock, though the caricature shouldn’t detract a coach with such a decorated CV.
A backs position would perhaps suit O’Sullivan better than a head coaching role. His nous in this particular area has always been admired and would allow him escape the media glare that goes with being top dog.
Question marks over game management would also become less relevant as he would be left to concentrate solely on back play, something Munster are crying out for at the moment.
His knowledge of the game has been widely used by various media outlets, an insightful pundit with clearly a strong passion for the game, but it could be put on hold with a welcome return to the game.
Munster require a knowledgeable coach to instil confidence and new ideas into a backline that has at times been pedestrian this season.
O’Sullivan needs to get back into a high-profile role, preferably on these shores.
It could be a marriage of convenience for both parties.